When Joanna Beresford moves to a new place, she likes to immerse herself in its culture and heritage. But what the Bracken Ridge local didn’t expect when she arrived here ten years ago, was that she would become so intimately acquainted with Brisbane’s past. Her new book is a fictional drama set in 1890s Brisbane – a pivotal time for the city.
“I found an advertisement in a local newspaper from 1890, from a couple who were looking to adopt a child for a small fee,” Joanna said. “I thought ‘That’s odd, you don’t offer to take a child for payment.’ It piqued my imagination.”
While researching this idea, Joanna, a local teacher and author, came to realise that the decade was a transformative time for the city.
“Brisbane had a bit of a reputation for being a bit of a rough, lawless place early on,” she said. “But by the 1890s it was becoming a more respectable town; more of a metropolitan city rather than a brash colonial outpost. It was bursting at the seams.”
Her book tells the story of Lillian Betts, a young maid who dreams of moving up in society. Ambitious but rebellious, the 19 year old must make a life changing decision when she witnesses a woman deliver a baby in a park and abandon it.
It was during her research for the book that Joanna came across some prominent historical events to weave into her story.
“There were a couple of floods at the time, of about the same magnitude as those we experienced in 2011,” she said. “I remember how the city rallied in 2011. When I read the newspapers of 1893, the community response seemed to mirror that.
“While my protagonist is fictional, I have included some of these real life events and attempted to recreate the setting as accurately as I could,” Joanna said of her historical fiction piece. “These types of books are a way to escape and visit new places, past and present.”
Every Year I Am Here, published by Atlas Productions, is available for purchase now through Amazon, Booktopia or any bookstore.