Captain Starlight’s Apprentice

Published in hardback by Hodder Headline in May 2006

Jess, sold by her father and circus-raised, is a stunt-rider who can outride any man. In the early days of film she finds her calling, playing wild outlaw women who answers to no-one. However, when her Chinese circus-owner husband is killed she is left pregnant and vulnerable and, after enormous betrayal, finds herself closer to the outlaw’s life than she had ever imagined

A generation later, Rose, heavily pregnant, migrates to Australia. But the new country is not all that she had hoped and neither is motherhood. Very quickly, she finds herself estranged from those she loves, incarcerated and terrified. As Rose unravels it is clear that neither woman’s story will be finished until they find a way of helping each other recover their loss, and to discover hope in the midst of their disrupted lives.

With these wonderfully heroic protagonists, making a world for themselves despite the toughness of their environment and the cruellest twists of fate, Kathryn Heyman, author of the acclaimed The Accomplice, has created a a superbly-written, unique novel of remarkable deeds and extraordinary lives.


‘A tale of passion and courage…. Heyman weaves the strands together with an imaginative gusto that echoes the great Angela Carter…. Delightful.’

– The Times

‘Glorious…. Remarkable….. there is a shimmering beauty to Heyman’s descriptions of the Australian landscape.’

– Vogue Australia

‘A tour de force.’

– The Melbourne Age

‘Dreamy… Feisty… Heyman’s writing is controlled and engaging.’

– The Independent

‘A highwire act of fiction, balancing a dizzying array of themes: the multicultural microcosm of the travelling cicus; the early cinema; female bushranging; migration and mental illness; the pain of losing children; and the way a spark of inspiration passes from one generation to the next. Sound ambitious? It is, but in Captain Starlight’s Apprentice, Kathryn Heyman pulls it off, playing ringmaster to this crowded bill of ideas and weaving them into a kind of magic… There is warmth, humour and compassion, and a resolution that’s nothing short of inspiring….. brilliantly original… this ranks up there with Kate Grenville or Peter Carey.’

– Judith White, The Bulletin