Based on the best-selling novel Fled by Meg Keneally, daughter of Schindler’s List famed writer Thomas Keneally, and inspired by the true story of Mary Bryant.  Transported to the end of the earth, highwaywoman Jenny Trelawney masterminds one of history’s most daring escapes from an Australian penal colony, only to discover that freedom brings its own dangers.

Genre(s):Historical, Drama, Adventure
Writer:Meg Keneally
Status:Completed Screenplay, Financing
Budget:US $16 million
Location:England, Australia
Runtime:124 mins
Producer:Paul G Andrews

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Reviews for Fled

Check out some excerpts from the numerous rave reviews Fled has received!

The New York Times

“Based on the real life of Mary Bryant, the notorious 18th-century runaway from an Australian penal colony, Keneally’s debut novel is a tragedy of epic proportions.

Bryant’s fictional counterpart, Jenny, lives in Cornwall and takes up highway robbery to support her family after losing her father. She’s caught, of course, and is sentenced to an Australian penal colony. Her escape across the 3,500 miles of treacherous seas back home earns her a renown that calls to mind “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.” But her heroic flight is just one segment of this long and calamitous journey.

Keneally doesn’t try to explain the tenacity of her heroine, nor should she; Jenny is in a fight for her life and the lives of her children, and there isn’t time, space or safety enough for long meditations on her situation. But while we don’t get a deep look into the protagonist’s interiority, her resilience is as captivating in fictional form as was Bryant’s when she first made headlines more than two centuries ago.

In the final chapters of “Fled,” Jenny reflects on her unsought notoriety: She is a curiosity, a spectacle, a source of entertainment for an audience that can never really know her.

It is a testament to Keneally’s dexterity that she is able to bring Jenny into focus as both a historical figure and a stand-in for others like her without losing the thread of her narrative. The reader can’t help feeling implicated as a spectator of unimaginable hardship.


“Having co-written the ‘Monsarrat’ historical fiction series with her father, Meg Keneally makes her solo debut with the gripping tale of one extraordinary woman’s life-long battle for survival. Following an impoverished childhood in 18th-century Cornwall, Jenny Trelawney is arrested for highway robbery and sentenced to be transported to a new penal colony on the other side of the world. After the convicts endure a harrowing sea voyage to reach Sydney Cove, the new settlement is beset by further hardships, and Jenny decides the only way to save herself and her children is to escape to the Dutch colonies in Indonesia, some three thousand miles away.

Keneally doesn’t hold back in portraying the horrors of life for the lower classes in 18th-century England, or for the fledgling colony in New South Wales. Poverty, famine, sickness and human brutality are all described in unflinching detail, but the prose never becomes histrionic; Keneally’s matter-of-fact, almost dispassionate description of what her characters endured makes their suffering all the more tangible. Inspired by the real-life convict Mary Bryant, Jenny is a captivating protagonist. Witty and determined, she is a survivor who doesn’t allow herself to lose her humanity, and her story is one of overcoming the overwhelming odds that life throws at her. Fled promises a successful solo career for Keneally.”

Daily Mail UK

“The novel, based on the real-life exploits of Mary Bryant, provides a colourfully detailed showcase for the limits of courage, daring and human resourcefulness.

Keneally’s Jenny is a powerful personality and her life is full of incident and tragedy — which was true of the woman on whom she is based.”

Culture Fly

“Meg Keneally’s first solo novel is based on the true story of Cornish convict Mary Bryant, who was sent to England’s penal colony in Australia in the late 18th century to carry out her sentence.

Fled’s Bryant-esque central character is poverty stricken Jenny, who finds herself on a harsh and unforgiving land after being convicted of highway robbery. Jenny becomes the leader of a daring plot to escape, braving the seas in a small rowboat in search of a better life for her family. It’s a historical drama about courage, love, treachery, motherhood and freedom. Perfect if you enjoyed ITV’s short-lived serial Banished.”

The Saturday Paper

Fled is one of the most satisfying historical fiction accounts in recent memory, reminiscent of Peter Carey at the height of his powers. Bryant’s story, told by way of Trelawney, is a triumph of feminist determination. The privations and humiliations she must undergo in order to survive are gruesome, but Keneally does not revel in Trelawney’s misery. Instead, she presses on insistently towards the next challenge, much like Bryant herself. The result is a propulsive novel that will be read by most in one or two sittings. If this is the standard Keneally is setting, it will be no surprise to see that famed surname etched anew on the nation’s literary awards.”


Fled is as historically accurate as good research can make it… Anyone interested in the history of early white settlement in Australia will find this novel fascinating and will come to admire Mary’s canny handling of difficult situations.

Keneally’s superb descriptions of their seafaring experiences could only have been written by someone with a deep understanding of life on the water. (Keneally admits to having been a scuba diving instructor and still enjoys being in, or under, the water.)

Fled is an exciting adventure story. That it is based on fact is an extra bonus. The laws of 200 years ago, and the brutality with which they were enforced, seem unthinkable today. Yet we live in a world where there are countries whose laws and behaviour are not that much worse than those in Jenny’s day. It is important to be reminded of that, even while we enjoy this novel.”

The Australian

Keneally’s dialogue clearly illuminates the different temperaments of her characters. She spins a steady yarn and maintains the pace of the plot, and she knows how to pilot a sentence. We are given a sympathetic but absolutely credible portrait of Jenny, who fails repeatedly in her journey but never shows signs of moral weakness. She is, in many ways, extraordinary — but Keneally also manages to show us just how recognisably ordinary she is, so this 200-year-old story feels both relevant and recent.

The AU Review

Fled is clearly the product of meticulous research and consultation, and the result is a richly drawn portrait of the life of a working class woman transported to Australia in the 18th Century, one which will fascinate those who are already interested in the period, and those who simply love a good historical read. In the hands of a lesser author, this story which takes place mostly in the bellies of ships and in a tiny cutter on a rough sea, might have been monotonous. Instead, Jenny Trelawney– highway woman, convict, mother, leader– is brought to life on the page and the previously masculine domain of convict history is finally given a heroine.”

The Herald Scotland

“In Jenny Trelawney, the author has created a strong, resourceful and tenacious character who uses every means at her disposal to survive, and it’s a hard book to stop reading. Keneally sets up a momentum that’s maintained through every stage of her journey – from a forest in Cornwall to her stint in a prison hulk, from giving birth on the long voyage to Australia to the privations of the colony itself – each location vividly realised.”

The Big Issue

“Empowerment is at the hear of Keneally’s first solo outing… Gender and class flow through these pages like rivers shaping islands, and Fled excels in this world Keneally has built to carry this incredible tale… the incarceration of Jenny… is felt every inch, the circumstances that force her hand no more escapable than the oceans travelled to her prisons… Keneally celebrates storytelling, walking the line between fact and fantasy. But what her characters do, better conveys the Aboriginal story that what they say. Keneally’s world and its inhabitants make Fled an enjoyable read with compelling parts.”

More reviews…

“Phenomenal. . . . An extraordinary story that is almost too fantastic to be believed.”


Stunning . . . a wonderfully adventurous novel. . . . Woven with style, built on solid research and an insight into times past.

The Book Trail

The pages fly by. Keneally’s tale of this fierce, passionate, unstoppable woman will leave you breathless—and wanting more. An epic story of love and liberty.

Elizabeth Cobbs, bestselling author of The Tubman Command

Meg Keneally’s fast-paced Fled grabs you by the collar and yanks you through a riveting story of unexpected twists and turns that will leave you breathless. Jenny Trelawney Gwynn is fierce, brash, and independent. She may be an 18th century convict, but she’s a heroine worthy of our 21st century #MeToo moment.

Stephanie Storey, author of Oil and Marble: a Novel of Leonardo and Michelangelo

A real page turner, this breathtaking yarn will keep you on the edge of your seat.

Dr Jonathan King, author of Mary Bryant – Her Life and Escape from Botany Bay

An irresistible feast of history, adventure, intrigue and tragedy. Epic yet tender. Authentic yet inspired.

Dr Clare Wright, author of You Daughters of Freedom

I was utterly absorbed—swept up and transported into convict life. Jenny Trelawney’s struggles—her intelligence, courage, and grit—as well as Meg Keneally’s beautifully understated writing, kept me up past bedtime night after night.

Jane Rawson, author of From the Wreck

Meg Keneally’s Fled is a page-turning high seas adventure led by an unlikely and utterly compelling woman. Jenny Trelawney Gwynn is the just the sort of literary heroine the world needs right now. By turns a grieving daughter, a thief, a convict, a fugitive, a mother, a wife, and an 18th century pop culture icon, she proves herself equal to any man and superior to most. I was cheering for Jenny from the first page to the last.

Tiffany Quay Tyson, award-winning author of The Past is Never