Book Review: Daughter of Bad Times by Rohan Wilson

Daughter of Bad Times…

About the Book:

A suspenseful, truthful and compelling novel from the critically acclaimed author of The Roving Party.

Rin Braden is almost ready to give up on life after the heartbreaking death of her lover Yamaan and the everyday dread of working for her mother’s corrupt private prison company. But through a miracle Yamaan has survived.

Yamaan turns up in an immigration detention facility in Australia, trading his labour for a supposedly safe place to live. This is no ordinary facility, it’s Eaglehawk MTC, a manufactory built by her mother’s company to exploit the flood of environmental refugees.

Now Rin must find a way to free Yamaan before the ghosts of her past and a string of bad choices catch up with them both.

In its vision of the future, Daughter of Bad Times explores the truth about a growing inhumanity, as profit becomes the priority.

My Thoughts:

Futuristic novels are not my usual reading fodder, but I have to say, Daughter of Bad Times is compelling reading. It’s a view of our world as a place where climate change has led to the disappearance and destruction of many islands, leaving a whole host of environmental refugees. You’d be forgiven for thinking right now that I’ve made a mistake with the ‘futuristic’ bit, but therein lies the novel’s strength. It might be set in 2075, but here in 2019, this is foreseeable. The other main theme running through this story is the concept of refugee facilities as cash cows. Specifically, refugees are lured out of emergency camps with the promise of a new life in a new country in exchange for one year of their life spent in a refugee facility. However, from the moment of agreement, they are charged exorbitant rates for their travel expenses, relocation fees, and upkeep once they are in the facility, rapidly accruing a debt they will never be able to clear. They must work in the facility manufacturing plant to reduce their never-ending debt, assembling junk toys and the like. They have of course been lied to, and have no idea that there is no way they can ever leave, debts can’t even be paid by someone else, because the host country has only agreed to the arrangement on the provision that the refugees remain in the facility, ineligible for visas. Pretty damned awful stuff, but again, chillingly foreseeable.

‘So that’s where the Australian facilities come into the picture Alessandra started looking for a new product, one that had better margins, better growth potential, and a more investor-friendly pitch. What better pitch than helping the refugees of the world? Who doesn’t want to help refugees, right? The five Australian facilities – Wollongong, Ballina, Port Lincoln, Bunbury, and Eaglehawk – are immigration detention centres, sure, but they’re also manufacturing plants. That means two revenue streams for one facility. And we also clean up our image. We’re not just a corrections company anymore – now we’re building communities, we’re saving lives.’

The novel alternates between Yamaan, a refugee in the Eaglehawk facility, located in Tasmania, and Rin, the heir to the throne so to speak – the CEO’s daughter. These two are former lovers. It’s a complicated relationship that I will admit, did nothing for me. I wasn’t convinced by the authenticity of it. To me, when considered from Rin’s perspective, Yamaan came off as Rin’s plaything, a whim on the part of a spoilt rich girl with a poor me syndrome. The relationship seemed entirely based on sex with the power weighted exclusively in Rin’s favour. I think the character of Rin just needed deeper examination. I couldn’t get a bead on her, she was all over the place and sketchy with her loyalties and morals. Even her motivations to save Yamaan were fundamentally selfish – she wanted him out of the facility because she wanted him back in her bed. I had a lot of unanswered questions about her and her behaviour, whereas with Yamaan, he was extremely well fleshed out. I had such a strong sense of who he was and his motivations and morals were clearly apparent. His sections were the ones I enjoyed the most, and the ones which elicited the most empathy within me.

When Rin leaks the truth to the world and the refugees find out, protests swiftly turn into riots. Again, there are eerie shades of truth playing out here. Unfortunately, it was from here on in that Rin’s character really took a nosedive for me. Rin shares some rather scathing thoughts as she arrives at the Eaglehawk facility. Specifically, references likening being in Australia to crawling around the butthole of the world; Australian accents sounding like the honking of a goose; and Aussie’s favouring all that is old fashioned because with a future so ugly we prefer to turn backwards. Hhmm. I’m not a zealot patriot, but these comments came one after the other within half a dozen pages. It repelled me a bit, to be honest, and I don’t feel it added value to the story. We have a lot going on in this country that could be done better, absolutely, but I wouldn’t live anywhere else. Comments like this in a novel written by an Australian author are disappointing.

That aside, Daughter of Bad Times is a solid read, a political thriller that offers readers a futuristic glance at the world we just might be heading towards. It raises questions about human rights and dignity; about catastrophic climate change and displacement; and about the blurring of refugee aide with business principles – a thriller with an alarming undertone. Recommended reading.

‘I was weak and I was wrong and I let them take you when I didn’t want to. That’s the truth. You were the daughter of my bad times and I was too weak to protect you.’


Thanks is extended to Allen and Unwin for providing me with a copy of Daughter of Bad Times for review.

About the Author:

Rohan Wilson is an award-winning writer and critic. He is a bestselling author of three novels, The Roving Party (2011) To Name Those Lost (2014), and Daughter of Bad Times (2019). Rohan lives in Brisbane where he lectures in creative writing. He can be found on Twitter: @rohan_wilson

Daughter of Bad Times
Published by Allen and Unwin
Released May 2019

5 thoughts on “Book Review: Daughter of Bad Times by Rohan Wilson

  1. Hi Theresa, I haven’t read a word of this review because I have this book at home and (although I know you don’t do spoilers) I don’t want my review to be influenced by reading yours!
    So I’ll come back here after I’ve read it – it’s top of my pile of review books, I love Rohan Wilson’s writing!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Daughter of Bad Times, by Rohan Wilson | ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

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