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The Secret River by Kate Grenville

The Secret River (original 2005; edition 2006)

by Kate Grenville

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2,0991033,141 (3.81)476
Title:The Secret River
Authors:Kate Grenville
Info:Canongate (2006), Paperback, 352 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:owned, literary fiction, Australia, aboriginals, moral issues, audible, audio

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The Secret River by Kate Grenville (2005)

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William Thornhill breaks the law so he and family are transported to New South Wales [today's Australia]. The novel deals with what whites are sent there and their uneasy relationship with the natives. William claims a bit of land and he and family try to make a go of it. After a period of years he finds that Australia has changed him. His wife still speaks wistfully of Home -- England -- but to him it is becoming a distant memory.

For a long part the novel dragged and it was a chore to force myself to read on. I'm glad I finally read of William's transformation and love of this new land. The description of the massacre was powerful. The novel WAS beautifully written.

"He remembered how it had been, that first night, the fearsome strangeness of the place.....He tried to picture himself the picture he had so often thought of, the neat little house in Covent Garden, himself lf strolling out of a morning to make sure his apprentices were sweating for him and that no man was stealing from him. But he could not really remember what the air had been like, or the touch of English rain....The picture he and Sal had carried around with them and handed backwards and forwards to each other was clear enough, but it had nothing to do with him.
He was no longer the same person who thought that a little house in Swan Lane and a wherry all his own was all a man might desire. Eating the food of this country, drinking its water, breathing its air, had remade him, particle by particle."
( )
  janerawoof | Jul 3, 2015 |
A little bit of a different read for me, is it possible I've never read anything Australian before?! Feels like this is the first time. Story of William Thornhill and his struggle to survive in early 19th century London culminating in being exiled to Australia as a convict. I know so little about this area of history and found it both shocking and interesting. The brutality towards the native population seems unbelievable today yet is so perfectly played out in this story that you almost feel sorry for William the making of his terrible decisions. ( )
  aine.fin | Jun 19, 2015 |
William Thornhill grew up poor in the slums of London, but his luck seemed to changed when he obtained an apprenticeship as a Waterman on the Thames and later married his master's daughter, Sal Middleton. Life again turned hard when Sal's parents died along with all financial security. When William Thornhill was caught illegally supplementing his meagre income he was transported to Australia. Fortunately he was able to be accompanied by his wife and young son.
Life in the colony in 1806 was very harsh, but with a dream of building a life on land in the upper reaches of the Hawkesbury River, the Thornhill family battled severe conditions and the threat of aboriginal attack, to forge their new life.
Well written and entertaining. A honest telling of a difficult time. ( )
  TheWasp | Jun 14, 2015 |
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 |
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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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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.

» Publisher information page

Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 1921351861, 1922147427

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