Close Notification

Your cart does not contain any items

Oh Happy Day

Those Times and These Times

Carmen Callil



Not in-store but you can order this
How long will it take?


03 November 2020
Carmen Callil explores her roots in a book that is a miracle of research and whose writing is fuelled by righteous anger - a story of Empire, migration and the poverty and injustices of nineteenth-century England.

Carmen Callil explores her roots in a book that is a miracle of research and whose writing is fuelled by righteous anger - a story of Empire, migration and the poverty and injustice of nineteenth-century England

In this remarkable book, Carmen Callil discovers the story of her British ancestors, beginning with her great-great-grandmother Sary Lacey, born illegitimate in 1808, an impoverished stocking frame worker in Leicestershire. Through detailed research, we follow Sary from slum to tenement and from pregnancy to pregnancy. We also meet George Conquest, a canal worker and the father of one of Sary's children. George was sentenced - for stealing a piece of hemp - to seven years' transportation to Australia, where he faced the extraordinary brutality of convict life. Meanwhile, Mary Ann Brooks and her father John, a silversmith, travel across the seas from Lincolnshire to escape the Workhouse and life as a skivvy.

But for George, as for so many destitute and disenfranchised British people like him, Australia turned out to be his Happy Day. He survived, prospered and eventually returned to England, where he met Sary again, after nearly thirty years. He brought her out to Australia, and they were never parted again.

Carmen Callil not only reclaims from obscurity the lives of these ordinary men and women who were sent to Australia as convicts or domestic servants, but also draws telling parallels for our own times. Oh Happy Day is a moving story of poverty, social injustice, Empire and migration.
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Dimensions:   Height: 235mm,  Width: 154mm,  Spine: 154mm
Weight:   550g
ISBN:   9780224090315
ISBN 10:   0224090313
Pages:   320
Publication Date:  
Audience:   General/trade ,  College/higher education ,  Professional and scholarly ,  ELT Advanced ,  Primary
Format:   Paperback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Carmen Callil was born in Australia but has spent most of her career in the United Kingdom. She founded Virago Press in 1973 and in 1982 became managing director of Chatto & Windus. Her first book, Bad Faith- A Forgotten History of Family and Fatherland, was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Award.

Reviews for Oh Happy Day: Those Times and These Times

An extraordinary reclamation of lives usually lost to history... A model of how to construct a compelling narrative from patchy material... Other writers, from Dickens onwards, have exposed these hardships: few have done so with the rigour and bitter irony that Callil employs. -- Nicholas Clee * BookBrunch * An absorbing account of empire, migration, the poverty of injustice and enduring love... The book bristles with Callil's righteous anger at the injustices meted out to her forbears, and at the parallels for our own times. -- Caroline Sanderson * The Bookseller * Powerfully told... [Oh Happy Day is] an impressive work, shining merciless beams of light on murky specifics of the early 1800s... She's such a forceful writer. -- Ysenda Maxtone Graham * The Times * Oh Happy Day is a phenomenal achievement... The book covers great swathes of history, giving us an insight into the Luddites, the Chartists, the nonconformist churches, the journeys to the Antipodes, the white Australia policy and the stealing of land from the Aborigines: all the political events that were unfolding as her ancestors forged their way in the world... These are intriguing stories. -- Dani Garavelli * Herald Scotland *

See Also