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The Secret River by Kate Grenville
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The Secret River (original 2005; edition 2006)

by Kate Grenville

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2,4231174,042 (3.81)538
In 1806 William Thornhill is transportd for life from the slums of London to New South Wales. His arrival with wife Sal and their children at first feels like a death sentence. But Thornhil discovers the colony can turn a person into a free man and eight years later he sails up the Hawkesbury and claims his own patch of ground. However, from the moment he sets foot on this land he has the feeling of being watched by the original inhabitants, the Darug people. There is tension between the Aboriginals and the new settlers and all are finding different ways to deal with it. As the situation spirals out of control Thornhill has to make the toughest decision of his life. Paul Blackwell's reading captures the hopes, dreams, conflict and struggle at the heart of this historical masterpiece.… (more)
Member:lauralkeet
Title:The Secret River
Authors:Kate Grenville
Info:Canongate U.S. (2006)
Collections:Removed from Library, Rest of World
Rating:****
Tags:read in 2008, booker prize shortlist, historical fiction, borrowed, australian authors, fiction, woman authors

Work details

The Secret River by Kate Grenville (2005)

  1. 20
    The Wives of Henry Oades by Johanna Moran (mrstreme)
  2. 10
    The Colour by Rose Tremain (jayne_charles)
    jayne_charles: More Antipodean colonial pioneers
  3. 21
    Searching for the Secret River by Kate Grenville (relah)
    relah: In this small book, Kate Grenville explores her family history and how her research into it led to her novel, The Secret River.
  4. 00
    Remembering Babylon by David Malouf (wandering_star)
    wandering_star: Very similar theme.
  5. 00
    Sarah Thornhill by Kate Grenville (Carole888)
    Carole888: This continues on from The Secret River, and is set later in time. Sarah Thornhill is the youngest daughter of William Thornhill. This is her story.
  6. 00
    Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue (inbedwithbooks)
    inbedwithbooks: Deze boeken zijn zusters!
  7. 01
    Wanting by Richard Flanagan (merry10)
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» See also 538 mentions

English (109)  German (3)  Norwegian (1)  Dutch (1)  French (1)  All languages (115)
Showing 1-5 of 109 (next | show all)
It's better to be a thief than to become a gentleman. Anyway, that's part of the lesson I got from this book. Making a living in 19th century London is pretty tough unless you are a gentleman or willing to commit thievery. And the thieves who are not hanged might be lucky enough to be sent to Australia, to be forgotten, to live or to die, doesn't much matter. This is the story of a kind thief who got a second chance, but to me, became less and less likable as the story moved forward. The look into criminal-populated Australia is interesting. The too-common story of indigenous people being forced out by the newcomers is all too real, and all to sad. While this book dragged in places and could have perhaps been a bit shorter, it is a good bit of historical fiction, entertaining and engaging. I read an ebook edition provided through a Prime membership. ( )
  TooBusyReading | Oct 29, 2019 |
I appreciated this story. It took me on a journey to New South Wales in the early 1800s. There were many vibrant scenes and some that were not so pleasant, but overall, it was a learning experience. I'm not sure that I want to read more like this. ( )
  bcrowl399 | Mar 2, 2018 |
The high quality of writing is obvious from the start. An unflinching, realistic slice of Australian history. ( )
  AngelaJMaher | Feb 23, 2018 |
This was a tough read. Inspired by the author's family history of ancestors transported to Australia as felons, it follows a working class family whose trials at the hands of an unfair society lead to theft and the threat of execution. Will Thornhill's death sentence is commuted to one of transportation for life, and so he begins a new existence on the other side of the world. The hardest part of this novel is the brutality shown by the white immigrants to the indigenous people whose land they squat on and claim as their own. I couldn't find any warmth in any of the characters who are at the centre of the story. Having said that, it's incredibly well written and thought provoking. You don't have to sympathise with the protagonists of every book, after all. ( )
  missizicks | Jan 22, 2018 |
The book describes an English family transported to New South Wales...Sydney and its surrounding area...after William is convicted of theft and sentenced to death or indentured servitude in Australia. Of course of the two choices Australia is looking pretty good. As William, attempts to work his way out of servitude, he falls in love with a parcel of land that’s in unsettled territory for the most part. There is also a large numbers of Aboriginal people already living there, and of course the settlers are anywhere from being wary of them to unbelievable cruelty. The struggle of this family is described in a way that is both understandable and horrifying. Most of the settlers at that time viewed the Aboriginal people as being less than human....and if any of the settlers who attempted to understand and establish a relationship with them were viewed with disgust. We see how even a person with good intentions might be led to commit terrible acts.

Also interesting in this book was the tension between William and his wife. It’s maddening at times because they are clearly at odds, and despite her very strong wishes William has control of their lives...as was the usual in those times. Wiliams often comes across as thoughtless and uncaring, making promises he has no intentions of keeping. In the end you'll find yourself rooting for William as he attempts to become a better person. ( )
  Carol420 | Jan 8, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 109 (next | show all)
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This novel is dedicated to the Aboriginal people of Australia:
past, present and future.
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The Alexander, with its cargo of convicts, had bucked over the face of the ocean for the better part of a year.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Grenville's Australian bestseller, which won the Orange Prize, is an eye-opening tale of the settlement of New South Wales by a population of exiled British criminals. Research into her own ancestry informs Grenville's work, the chronicle of fictional husband, father and petty thief William Thornhill and his path from poverty to prison, then freedom. Crime is a way of life for Thornhill growing up in the slums of London at the turn of the 19th century—until he's caught stealing lumber. Luckily for him, a life sentence in the penal colony of New South Wales saves him from the gallows. With his wife, Sal, and a growing flock of children, Thornhill journeys to the colony and a convict's life of servitude. Gradually working his way through the system, Thornhill becomes a free man with his own claim to the savage land. But as he transforms himself into a trader on the river, Thornhill realizes that the British are not the first to make New South Wales their home. A delicate coexistence with the native population dissolves into violence, and here Grenville earns her praise, presenting the settler–aboriginal conflict with equanimity and understanding. Grenville's story illuminates a lesser-known part of history—at least to American readers—with sharp prose and a vivid frontier family
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Canongate Books

An edition of this book was published by Canongate Books.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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