The story of Rose de Freycinet, narrated by the Mauritian boy, Jose, has almost completed its journey to publication. The cover image has now been chosen. It looks stunning! Negotiations to launch the book at the State Library of Western Australia during the Heritage Festival in April/May 2014 are progressing and my trip to the CBCA Conference in Canberra, to help promote the book, is still a possibility.
I do feel that the research, the writing and the search for a publisher for this story have been almost as long and hard as sailing around the world on the Uranie. But, like Rose when she was asked about her voyage afterwards, I would definitely do it all again. During my own journey with this story I have done so many interesting things, met lots of fascinating people and had plenty of fun along the way. I travelled to France, met the present Baron de Freycinet, visited the family chateau in Saulce-sur-Rhone and the Naval dockyard in Toulon, where the voyage began. I have also held in my hands and read with my own eyes some of the letters written by Rose, with pen and ink, in her neat handwriting. In this digitised world we tend to forget how important the experience of handling the real thing is. It is not difficult to see how handwriting experts can tell so much about a person by studying their handwriting. But even being able to see, feel and smell the paper on which these original messages were written gives us a sense of who that person was, what they cared about. The quality of the paper, the neatness and precision with which the letter was written, the signature, all speak volumes about the writer. Then there is the emotional impact. Holding and reading from these original documents, written so long ago, certainly brings me closer to the real person who wrote them.
Meanwhile we must endure the waiting for a few more months while the finishing touches are put on the book by the superb team at the National Library of Australia. Stay with us for a little longer. I promise it will all be worthwhile.