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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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2,0531003,243 (3.81)467
Member:Niecierpek
Title:The Secret River
Authors:Kate Grenville
Info:Canongate (2006), Paperback, 352 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:owned, literary fiction, Australia, aboriginals, moral issues, audible, audio

Work details

The Secret River by Kate Grenville (2005)

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Showing 1-5 of 94 (next | show all)
The Angus and Robertson Top 100 (2006 - 2008) Book #93.
The Secret River is a historically set novel. The plot was interesting, however, not a lot really happened in the book. It wasn't difficult to read, but it is not a book that I would race to read again. ( )
  amme_mr | May 5, 2015 |
2.5 stars

It is the early 1800s and William Thornhill is a convict in England and is sent to the penal colony in Australia, where he is joined by his wife and young son. In Australia, he is able to take over some land to build a new life. Of course, the Aboriginals are already there on that land.

The premise of the book sounded interesting to me, but the execution wasn't my kind of thing at all. It is very literary and has won awards, which is appealing to some, but not necessarily my thing. I was bored through the first 2/3 of the book, but it did pick up for me in the last 1/3, once there was interaction with the Aboriginals (hence, the extra ½ star). The use of italics for dialogue also drove me a bit nuts (and the author admitted in her note that some people might not like that; see my hand go up...). I did find that note at the end interesting. ( )
  LibraryCin | May 3, 2015 |
William Thornhill became a thief just to survive and eat in London. When he finally gets caught, he is sentenced to death, but gets a reprieve and instead is sent to New South Wales where he is bound over to his wife. At the end of that period, he is emancipated and begins to build his own legacy. The reader is treated to the landscape and hardships of that period of Australian history. There is also the issue of the white man versus the black aboriginals of the area. While modern readers will probably empathize with the plight of the aboriginals, the author does treat it with authenticity for that period. Her central character shows more compassion than many of the other settlers toward them. I enjoyed this venture into early 19th century Australia in fiction. ( )
  thornton37814 | Apr 25, 2015 |
Grenville's depiction of daily life in London and unsettled South Wales is impressive, detailed, and filled with a clear appreciation for both nature and history. In fact, once the story moved to South Wales, I sometimes felt I was reading a piece of nature writing more so than a novel. This, essentially, ends up being the problem with the text. While the story is certainly realistic and detailed, the characters are mere silhouettes from history for the vast majority of the novel. Absolutely, they are believable, but they are also simply drawn, and incredibly flat considering the scope of the novel.

At the climax of the work, well into the novel, the characters come more into focus, Grenville's writing of plot and action excelling as she writes what is, fairly clearly, at the heart of the book (and perhaps the reason for the book in its entirety?). Afterward, however, the characters move back to the background, their story only important as it stands as a frontal lens for history.

Readers who want the history more than a great read will, most certainly, appreciate the book, and it certainly does give a view to a little enough discussed piece of history. That said, as a novel and as a story to explore for story and character...it's not something I'd recommend, lovely as the writing may be. ( )
  whitewavedarling | Nov 15, 2014 |
William Thornhill is sent to jail in London for thieving. He gets the opportunity to choose between a punishment of death in England or exile to Australia, so his wife Sal and their infant are soon on their way to the outback. Once there life is anything but simple. As the couple struggle to survive they are tested on every front.

Where Thornhill sees an opportunity his wife sees a lonely life in the wilderness. They decide to take their chances and begin to farm. They are soon introduced to the small community in the area and the contentious relationship between the native aboriginal people and the new English immigrants. Many misunderstandings arise because of the cultural differences between the people. The people have a hard time finding common ground because of their unique view of landownership and very different styles of celebrations.

Fear is what drives people to destroy what they don’t understand. The tragic consequences are a stain on the entire country’s history. They haunt the characters long after they become a distant memory. I loved that the story gives a voice to both sides of the issue. Many of the white people didn’t understand the harm they were doing. They were afraid and when they decided to act in fear they were bound to make a bad decision. The persecution of the aboriginal people is shown in a way that allows the reader to understand how things could have escalated so quickly.

BOTTOM LINE: The story is a powerful one. It revisits the age old question; do the ends justify the means? For me the characters were a little stale, but I have found myself thinking about different aspects of the plot since I finished it two months ago. It’s not one I’ll reread, but I think it offers a valuable glimpse into the difficult relationship between immigrants and the native people in any country. ( )
  bookworm12 | Oct 23, 2014 |
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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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Book description
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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Following a childhood marked by poverty and petty crime in the slums of London, William Thornhill is sentenced in 1806 to be transported to New South Wales for the term of his natural life. With his wife and children, he arrives in a harsh land to a life that feels like a death sentence.… (more)

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Audible.com

4 editions of this book were published by Audible.com.

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Canongate Books

An edition of this book was published by Canongate Books.

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 1921351861, 1922147427

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