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Fiction Book Reviews

Historical Fiction | Paris Savages by Katherine Johnson

We’re delighted to be sharing Laura’s thoughts about Paris Savages by Katherine Johnson on the Allison & Busby tour.

Book cover for Paris Savages by Katherine Johnson

Paris Savages by Katherine Johnson is available to purchase in digital, hardcover and audiobook formats.

Fraser Island, Australia 1882. The population of the Badtjala people is in sharp decline following a run of brutal massacres. When German scientist Louis Müller offers to sail three Badtjala people – Bonny, Jurano and Dorondera – to Europe to perform to huge crowds, the proud and headstrong Bonny agrees, hoping to bring his people’s plight to the Queen of England.

Accompanied by Müller’s bright daughter, Hilda, the group begins their journey to belle-époque Europe to perform in Hamburg, Berlin, Paris and eventually London. While crowds in Europe are enthusiastic to see the unique dances, singing, fights and pole climbing from the oldest culture in the world, the attention is relentless, and the fascination of scientists intrusive. When disaster strikes, Bonny must find a way to return home.


Paris Savages is a fascinating and harrowing historical novel on Australian history I was previously naive to. I was first entranced by the beautiful front cover but on reading have found this is an important story to tell.

The story begins on Fraser Island in 1882 which explains the sharp decline of the Badtjala population. Inspired by three aboriginal people Bonanagera, Jurano and Dorondera, this book explains how people were shipped from their communities to perform in a ‘Human zoo’ for the entertainment of Europeans.

German Louis Muller and his teenage daughter take these three to perform in Hamburg, Berlin and Paris with the promise of London so that Bonny can call on for help from the Queen to save his people.

As the journey continues across Europe Hilda is appalled by the treatment of her friends and shares diary entries to display her true feelings, especially on discovery of scientific experiments undertaken of Bonny, Jurano and Dorondera. Her point of view for a young girl is observant and shows her empathy and compassion.

This novel encompasses many different feelings of disgust, worry, dread, pity, concern and horror at the treatment of people by others. It makes you wonder who the real savages are in this story, it certainly is not the exhibits put on display.

Jera's Jamboree

KATHERINE JOHNSON lives in Tasmania with her husband and two children. She is the author of three previous novels and her manuscripts have won Varuna Awards and the Tasmanian Premier’s Literary Prizes. She recently completed a PhD, which forms the basis of her latest novel, Paris Savages.

Qualified as a Sleep Consultant, Dyslexia Therapist, Reiki Master, Mental Health First Aider and Mindfulness Practitioner, my passion is for sharing anything that will make life easier. My love of reading, crocheting, being out in nature and positive psychology are all things that help me unwind.


  • Fiona jk42

    I’m not that knowledgable about Australian history so a book that covers the treatment of indigenous people by supposedly “civilised” Europeans will be interesting and informative.

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