Mrs Hopkins by Shirley Barrett


On a rainy night in 1871, an idealistic schoolmistress arrives on Cockatoo Island in Sydney Harbour. Mrs Hopkins doesn’t know what to expect from the notorious Biloela Industrial School for Girls, but nothing could prepare her for what she encounters inside the high sandstone walls: the conditions are dismal, the rules are largely conceptual, and the girls spend most of their time finding creative ways to outsmart the adults.

Very quickly, Mrs Hopkins realises that noble intentions won’t be enough to plough through the chaos around her. An unconventional school requires unconventional methods, and Mrs Hopkins is going to have to find her own ways to reach her lively, lost charges. But her own ghosts have followed her to Cockatoo Island, and refuse to stay hidden for much longer.

This witty, surreal and poignant final novel from Shirley Barrett is about what destroys us, what sustains us, and what we carry with us from one world into the next.