The Singing Line by Alice Thomson
Tracking the Adventure of My Intrepid Victorian Ancestors

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A charming true-life romantic adventure about a pair of young British couples--one hundred fifty years apart--braving the exotic rigors of the Australian Outback

The Singing Line is a wondrous narrative that combines the historical adventure of Longitude or Endurance with the keen insights and rambling rhythms of Under the Tuscan Sun and A Year in Provence.

One hundred sixty years ago, Charles Todd, an impecunious astronomer's assistant, was sitting in his prosperous relatives' drawing room in Oxford, England, telling them of his dreams. He wished to go to South Australia and seek his fortune in the wild colony as Government Astronomer and Superintendent of Telegraphs. What he did not mention was that he also intended to string a telegraph wire--"the singing line"--across the brutal Australian Outback, which no human had ever even crossed before. Charles despaired of only one thing: finding a wife willing to brave such hardship with him. Suddenly, twelve-year-old Alice, hiding beneath the chaise longue, piped up: "I will marry you, Mr. Todd, if no one else will." And seven years later, so she did.

Alice Thomson, a young, successful British journalist, decided to trace the paths taken by Charles and Alice Todd, her great-great-grandparents. These two intrepid souls had left the comforts of Victorian England to settle in South Australia, the most remote part of the British Empire in the 1840s. Charles's quest to connect the desolate continent with the rest of the world by stringing telegraph wire from south to north was an almost unimaginably difficult feat. Even today the journey is something of an ordeal, as Alice Thomson and her bemused and long-suffering husband, Edward, learned.

Thomson spins the fascinating tale of the Todds' adventures Down Under with wit and grace. Charles did in fact succeed in laying his "singing line" across the Outback, an astonishing feat requiring the peculiarly Victorian virtue of pluck. Alice, from a comfortable home, suddenly had to adapt to the life of a frontier wife in the oddest and most isolated place imaginable. Charles's implacable derring-do--his many expeditions and near-disasters--and Alice's equally brave attempts to re-create a proper British life in a land of dust, flies, kangaroos, and emus make for a tale equal parts charm and excitement.

About Alice Thomson

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Published October 5, 1999 by Doubleday. 304 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Education & Reference, Travel. Non-fiction