journey into darkness

Book Reviews

Journey into Darkness

Kit Markham grew up until the age of fourteen believing that the parents who raised her were actually her parents. The truth came out because of the man she’d loved since the age of six, Jack. Now, Kit knows she could never be with Jack because he is, in fact, her half-brother. She is so deeply hurt she wants to leave everything behind and move on. So, she leaves Melbourne at 16 and moves to England. In England, she volunteers as a nurse to attend to the wounded returning to England after the Crimean War, but her experience with a young Canadian compels her to train as a doctor and she moves to America. She learns to be tough in a world dominated by men and at a time when women are looked upon as mere housewives. After marrying Ned, she accompanies him to the front during the American Civil War. Follow her adventures and an eventual encounter with Jack, the love of her life and half-brother, which will make her search her heart deeper. But will she follow her heart’s desire or the conventions of the time?

With an international setting in Melbourne, England and America, this is a beautiful and compelling story with great historical references. Kit is a character that is well-developed, a brave woman who faces the challenges of the world unflinchingly. Journey into Darkness by Dr Dell Elizabeth Brand features powerful social and historical commentaries, giving readers a clear idea of what life was like between 1855 and 1862. The use of the epistolary style enriches the plot and deepens character as well as conflict. Dr Dell Elizabeth Brand’s handling of character and plot is exceptional and readers can’t help but be absorbed by the perspective of the protagonist, rendered more eloquent by the first person narrative voice. Journey into Darkness is a tantalizing novel that transports readers into a turbulent era in history and follows the adventures of one brave woman trying to run from herself, but can she?

Divine Zape for ‘Readers’ Favourite’ 5 Stars

Journey into Darkness by Dr. Dell Elizabeth Brand is a powerful story that features strong elements of history, adventure, and women’s fiction. It’s the story of Kit Markham, who has lived her life hoping to marry the man she’s loved since she was a little girl. But everything changes when she learns that Jack — the love of her life — is her half-brother. She’s also lived with a lie about her parenthood. Broken by this discovery, she leaves her home in Melbourne and sets out for England. She is sixteen years old and her adventure is just beginning when she opts to join the team of nurses tending to wounded soldiers in ships returning from the Crimean War. Follow her adventures as she discovers her vocation, falls in love and gets married, and follows her husband to the war front. But will the life of Kit Lewis be the same when Jack re-enters it years later?

This is a wonderful story with strong themes. Kit is a compelling character, the kind of woman who’ll do anything to achieve her dream. She is driven and readers will enjoy following her in a world where men lead and women merely follow. She has to fight to pursue her dream of becoming a doctor. The relationship between Kit and Ned is beautifully explored and readers will enjoy the well-crafted letters as well as the dynamics of this relationship. Dr. Dell Elizabeth Brand brings relevant elements of history into her writing, captures the culture of the West in the period between 1855 and 1861 with brilliance, and introduces characters that will stay with readers. The writing itself is fascinating and readers will enjoy awesome dialogues and the author’s unique phraseology. Journey into Darkness had me gripped from the first to the last page, thanks to the great treatment of plot and characters.

Christian Sia for ‘Readers’ Favourite’ 5 Stars

Journey into Darkness by Dr. Dell Elizabeth Brand is the fictional story of a tenacious woman named Kit Markham. At the age of sixteen, Kit believed she knew exactly the direction her life would take. She was young, in love, and envisioned a future that was wholly secure. This is all ripped apart when she receives the devastating news that she is adopted and that her intended husband is actually her half-brother. Kit does all she can to put distance between herself and Jack, finally embarking on a journey to England when it becomes clear that there isn’t a corner of Australia that’s far enough away to alter the course of her feelings. In England, she works to support war efforts as a ship’s nurse, with a shift of allegiance in the form of a unique opportunity that takes her to the shores of the United States… and straight into the front of its Civil War.

Journey into Darkness is a fantastic piece of historical fiction and Dr. Dell Elizabeth Brand takes her readers across continents in a tale of female strength and empowerment in a time when both were virtually impossible. Kit is a well-developed and worthy heroine that is easy to root for. The writing is clean and tight, with exceptional descriptions and thoroughly researched details – particularly as they pertain to some of the heaviest field battles of the Civil War. “I was sent to help at Spangler farm and there I found rows of men lying against a building, steady rain from dripping eaves soaking them through. All were patiently awaiting their turn on the operating table.” For readers who enjoy books like Gone with the Wind and Cold Mountain – with a dash of Little Women thrown in for good measure – this book is sure to please.

Jamie Michele for ‘Readers’ Favourite’ 5 Stars

Journey Into Darkness is a fascinating historical fiction novel by Dr. Dell Elizabeth Brand. Covering eight years in the life of a young Australian woman who travels to England, the Crimea, and the United States during periods of terrible war, it presents an enlightening account of the times through the eyes of Catherine “Kit” Markham and those close to her. On one level, the story is of Kit’s personal life: her family struggles and the men she comes to love. On another level, it’s about her growing interest in medicine and the struggle of women to become physicians, when many people don’t yet accept them in that role. On the broadest level, it’s a sweeping history of the times: the geo-political and social conflicts; the changing technologies in medicine, invention, warfare, and travel; and a clear picture of the brutality of war.

Journey Into Darkness begins a bit slowly, where its focus is on Kit’s emotional and romantic conflicts as a teenager in Australia. But, it isn’t long before Kit is at sea and embarking on the adventures which increasingly engage the reader’s interest as the narrative unfolds. Dr. Brand’s masterful skills as a storyteller and historian shine through here. While the story is about Kit’s experiences as a young woman between 1855 and 1863, and heavily focused on the American Civil War, the point of view changes between characters. Large swaths of the story are told through epistolary narrative, which adds the voices of other characters as well, and famous historical characters are woven into the fictional account. On the whole, I found Journey Into Darkness to be an engaging, entertaining, and educational read.

Kimberlee J Benart for Readers’ Favourite 5 Stars

The year is 1855 and Kit is sixteen and preparing to move to England to forget Jack, her true love (unfortunately also her half-brother). It is the end of the Crimean War and Kit finds herself offering volunteer nursing skills to the wounded coming home. This is the first step that will change Kit’s life forever. She realizes that she very much wants to be a doctor, something that is frowned upon for women in the 1850s. John is one of Kit’s patients and slowly the two fall in love. Kit once again is forced to face pain as her plan to marry John disappears. Kit’s next plan is to go to America and study medicine. Kit works hard and long and finally becomes the doctor that she so badly desired.

She next meets and works with a wonderful doctor, Ned, who patiently trains her and, finally being over her love for Jack and her unfortunate loss of John, Kit falls deeply in love with Ned and his young son, Charlie. Together Kit and Ned work tirelessly as the Civil War battles rage on, taking care of the wounded and sick. This too ends badly and when Jack comes to America from Australia to take her home, Kit once again has many decisions to make.

As I read Journey into Darkness by Dr Dell Elizabeth Brand, I became a partner in Kit’s life and felt as though I was traveling in her shoes and sharing all of her experiences. Journey into Darkness brought the Civil War to life, turning Kit, Jack, John and Ned into real live friends that I wanted to spend time with, and creating a story that has all the elements of an ‘impossible to put down’ book. The history was accurate and the fiction was perfect. Dr Dell Elizabeth Brand is a gifted author!

Trudi LoPreto for Readers’ Favourite 5 Stars

“Journey into Darkness” by Dell Brand is a historical fiction novel that spans from 1855 – 1865, from Melbourne, Australia to England, through the Crimean War, onto America and the Civil War, and back to Australia. It’s a whirlwind of a story as readers follow Kit Markham, a fascinating, though not stereotypical young woman of the mid-19th Century.
Kit Markham was just fourteen when her whole world was turned upside down because of Jack. Kit and Jack were inseparable as kids and they always imagined they would get married and spend the rest of their lives together. When their families share that the two are actually half-brother and half-sister, it is almost too much to bear. At age 16, Kit knows she must get away from Jack and try to forget him. Hence begins Kit’s journey into darkness as fate steers her in a direction she never could have imagined.

The story is presented in four parts and takes readers through a historical field trip of a tumultuous period in history. It is apparent the author engaged in an intense research process as the novel is rich and descriptive with vivid details sprinkled throughout the entire story. There is a lot of history passed along and readers run the risk of information overload at times, however, much of this material is presented though correspondence between the main characters and, in my opinion, this is the best way to unpack a lot of historical facts into a fiction piece.

Kit is an interesting protagonist – a flawed character who will either endear readers or drive them crazy. I wanted to like her more than I did – and I don’t say that as a bad thing. Rather, I realized that it was perhaps because of this mild animosity toward her that I was driven to learn more about her and grow into her character as I watched her mature and go from being a somewhat entitled child, to a woman with a high work ethic. Her struggles in being a woman in the mid-19th Century will no doubt be a relatable factor for many female readers as some of the issues and challenges she faces are still very relevant in the world today.

Overall, I found “Journey into Darkness” by DE Brand to be an enlightening and entertaining piece of historical fiction. I must give this Australian based author due credit for providing such a thorough, educated accounting of the American Civil War. Fans of historical fiction in this era will appreciate the time and effort put into the creation of such a genuine interpretation.
An intense historical fiction novel through a tumultuous time period.

Sheri Hoyte

Loved the book but didn’t like the way it was actually written, too jumpy, not smooth. The storyline was great and a learned a lot about the American Civil War and I knew that women doctors had a hard time getting their degrees and being accepted. I knew that America was more understanding in some states and women could get degrees.
Was disappointed in the way Jack turned out. I thought he was weak where Kit was concerned. He couldn’t/wouldn’t move on. It wasn’t fair on his wife either. Like the way you have finished the book so that you can follow Kit’s journey in Australia. Can’t wait for it.

Annette Rauk



Other Adult Books by Dell that you may like…

A Brummy's Backyard
As the lumbering jet swoops low over the grey, legoland housing rows that surround Heathrow Airport, the story of the author’s year of living in England begins. Recipients of a teaching exchange, Australians Dell and John are bound for schools in the West Midlands, and find that things are quite different in Brummyland.
The story of two young women determined to live outside the confines of the Victorian Age and who have a lasting impact on the fledgling town of Melbourne.
An epic story of life and death amid the turbulent years of the Victorian gold rush, narrated by the three main characters, Adam, Joey and Tom.
Penny Taylor, from London’s East End, finds herself part of the struggling Hapless family, living in a caravan park in the Illawarra on the south coast of New South Wales. She is kept busy with three young children, two of whom belong to Dudley Hapless, her present partner and a professional basketball player with the Hawks.
The Weif is a sweeping story of servitude and the struggle for freedom, of the law and its cruel inequities, of the privations and harshness of a rugged new land and of a brother and sister’s fragile home on life during the tumultuous early years of settlement in Australia.
Kit Markham’s world turns upside down when Jack, the boy she always believed she would marry, turns out to be her half-brother. At sixteen, feisty and headstrong, she leaves her home in Melbourne and flees to England. The year is 1855.
A group of mates from the Sydney suburb of Botany answer the call from king and country and go away to fight in the first world war. Far from the adventure they imagined, the five years of the conflict bring challenge, fear and loss but also lighter moments and some unexpected romance.
The Northern Territory was a harsh and demanding place in 1920 when Charles Dalton becomes the new boss-man on a remote cattle station. He must work with blacks, half-castes and coloureds to get things done and his colonial attitudes risk him losing everything.