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ISBN: 9781760991678
Dimensions: C Format: 23x15.2cm
Pages: 400
Publication year: 2023
Publisher: Fremantle Press
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The Silk Merchant’s Son

Written by Peter Burke

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In 1845, linguistics professor Fabrice Cleriquot is despatched from Lyon to the Swan River Colony, sent away with a box full of silkworms to stop him from bringing more disgrace upon the family. Accompanying him on board the Elizabeth are twenty-eight mismatched and misguided Catholic missionaries including Dom Salvado, who seeks to create a Spanish Benedictine monastery deep in the bush, and the Irish Sisters of Mercy, who are fleeing a dreadful famine.

Given the job of distributing a huge donation from a wealthy benefactress, Fabrice bears witness to the folly of his travelling companions whose presumptuous attempts to rescue the colony and the original inhabitants from themselves, can only lead to tragedy.


In The Silk Merchant’s Son, we travel with dubiously motivated colonials through wonderfully detailed landscapes, encountering the perils of the missionary dream in the Swan River Colony and beyond. With a satirical eye and compassionate heart, Peter Burke potently and engagingly stories the damage wreaked in the name of good intentions.’ Josephine Taylor

‘Woven with wit and intelligence. It is a vividly told tale.’ Weekend Australian

‘Burke presents these do-gooders in all their presumptuousness and quixotic folly, knowing as the reader does that their efforts will play a tragic part in the lives of the Noongar people they’re ostensibly trying to assist.’ Age

‘This modern telling reveals a monk excommunicated for transvestism and the plight of the invaded Aboriginal landowners.’ Australian Women’s Weekly

‘A thought-provoking and extremely readable novel about what would be a lesser-known aspect of WA history. The detail included in evoking the setting alone make it worth reading.’ AU Review

The Silk Merchant’s Son turns a carefully crafted eye on those religious souls who thought they were coming to this foreign land to do good.’ Subiaco Post

‘With the evidence of colonialism right there on the page, it gently demands you think, consider and contemplate. The author was able to inject a little bit of 2023 into the story by having some of the characters ask tough questions about colonisation and colonialism.’ Ara Jansen, M Forum

Pages: 400
Publication Year: 2023
Publisher: Fremantle Press
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Peter Burke

Peter Burke is a Perth doctor and writer of Western Australian historical fiction, his novels being enjoyed for their filmic quality and humour. Professionally, he divides his time between Murdoch University medical clinic and the hospitals of the Kimberley region of the North West. His first novel, The Drowning Dream, was shortlisted for both the […]