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The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville

The Lieutenant (original 2008; edition 2010)

by Kate Grenville

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5575117,907 (3.68)146
Title:The Lieutenant
Authors:Kate Grenville
Info:Grove Press (2010), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville (2008)



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Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
Australian author Kate Grenville, in "The Lieutenant," has fashioned a loose companion-piece to the powerful and award-winning "The Secret River," and in the process has shown an impressive versatility: Not only can she paint convincingly on a large canvas, as in "Secret River," can also do great justice with a smaller, more intimate narrative. "The Lieutenant" is marvelous.

Our laudable author imagines the events which change Lieutenant Daniel Rooke’s life. An officer in His Majesty King George III’s Marines, Rooke sails to New South Wales aboard the flagship of Britain’s first fleet to land and settle permanently. He travels with the reference and recommendation of the royal astronomer, and sees nothing but the grand vistas of new worlds and new opportunity. He chooses, however, to follow his own conscience at a moral crossroads, and it changes his life forever.

"The Lieutenant" is full of closely-observed thought processes and the internal dialogue of its hero, and we have absolutely no trouble believing it. Based on events in a real officer’s life, Ms. Grenville’s imagining is a triumph – realistic, understanding, compassionate, vivid. The pivotal events in the man’s life don’t need a long exposition, and don’t get any more than is absolutely necessary. This economical treatment accomplishes exactly what it needs to – this tale could very easily be over-told or under-told. This author hits it in the sweet spot.

This holds its place as a companion-piece to "The Secret River" because of the temporal and geographic proximity, but has not been set up as a prequel. I’m intrigued by its relationship to "Secret River" and quite looking forward to "Sarah Thornhill," the third book in the trilogy. Take up The Lieutenant and travel with its hero, see his place in history, and feel his anguish as he searches his soul during a timeless conflict. Recommended very highly.

http://bassoprofundo1.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-lieutenant-by-kate-grenville.html ( )
  LukeS | Oct 22, 2013 |
Daniel Rooke has spent his entire life being an outsider. As a boy, growing up in Portsmouth in the 1760s, he was taunted by classmates for his inquisitive mind. He seemed to march to the beat of a different drummer. But when he was introduced to the Astronomy Royal, he finally found someone who understood him and his love of science and math. It is this relationship that leads him eventually to His Majesty’s Marine Forces and a post in the Australian penal colony of New South Wales. He convinces the base commander to allow him to set up a base for himself, at a distance from the rest of the company, where he can set up the astronomy instruments given to him by the Astronomy Royal in order to track the path of a comet. This suits Rooke’s loner mentality perfectly.

In the meantime, the colony is struggling to maintain a food supply for its population of military men and prisoners and has not been able to establish a friendly co-existence with the natives. Rooke, however, has struck up a relationship with some friendly native children, particularly the young girl Tagaran and is steadily breaking down the language barrier. He is blissfully happy with his new life but when Rooke is forced to join a party of men who will track down a native suspected of using his spear on the gamekeeper, his moral outrage gets the better of him and puts his idyllic life in jeopardy.

This is the second book in Kate Grenville’s Colonial Trilogy and although it didn’t approach the powerful intensity of The Secret River it did make me look forward to the final book. Grenville’s ability to describe the Aboriginal black/white struggle by portraying the history through poetic narrative is moving and compassionate. Her ability to display this history through the eyes of a sweet, innocent protagonist with a true heart of goodness makes for a satisfying read. ( )
4 vote brenzi | Sep 15, 2013 |
This is an historical fiction book set in the late 1700s to early 1800s. It focusses on Daniel Rooke, a young man, discovering himself, as well as the new world in Australia along with it’s natives and language.

Historical fiction isn’t something that I would usually pick up, but I was surprised with this novel. The writing was absolutely flawless and this proved to be a beautifully crafted piece of fiction. Although this is technically fiction, it is based on a lot of historical facts and Rooke, the protagonist, is based on a real historical figure. I felt that this added a lot of realistic elements and emotions to the book and really dragged me, as a reader, into the story and the situation that Rooke finds himself in.

One of my favourite things about this novel is the use of language that Grenville includes. As Rooke is discovering the language of the natives, the reader also is discovering it along with him. I found that this helped me to become completely immersed in the story and the world of Australia at that time.

The writing is also one of the main things that kept me reading on throughout the slower parts of this book. It is some of the most beautiful writing I have come across with its poetic descriptions of the landscape and Rooke’s surroundings, as well as the more philosophical aspects of Rooke’s train of thought. I found that this novel really got me thinking about the attitudes of humanity and the reasoning behind certain things that we, as a species, do.

Overall, I would give this 4 out of 5 stars as although it parts it went a bit slow, I absolutely loved the writing and the surrounding that Kate Grenville created through her words and perfectly formed, true-to-life characters. A must-read for anyone who loves historical fiction, or just wants to try something new! ( )
  charlottejones952 | Sep 2, 2013 |
I loved this book. Kate Grenville is a wonderful storyteller and skilfully evokes time, place & character. The book narrates the life of Daniel Rooke from his childhood in Portsmouth to his journey to New South Wales as a lieutenant charged with charting a comet. Once in NSW, he develops a friendship with an Aboriginal child, a friendship which changes his world view utterly. A compelling read & one full of hope. ( )
  sianpr | Jul 14, 2013 |

In this novel, Kate Grenville returns to the time and place which inspired her in [b:The Secret River|347698|The Secret River|Kate Grenville|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1328849791s/347698.jpg|1374275]: the early days of the British colony in New South Wales. This time her central character, Daniel Rooke, is based on Lieutenant William Dawes, the First Fleet’s astronomer, who was also a skilled linguist, engineer and surveyor.

Grenville portrays Rooke as a brilliant but shy and socially awkward man: a mathematician, musician, linguist and astronomer, who becomes friends with a young girl from the local Cadigal indigenous clan and learns and records her language. Through this relationship, Rooke finds out who he really is and learns where his true loyalties lie.

In some ways, reading this novel is like being plunged into an alternative universe where everything is the same, yet different. In her author’s note, Grenville states: “This is a novel; it should not be mistaken for history”. To reinforce this point, Grenville has renamed real life historical figures. William Dawes becomes Daniel Rooke. Dawes’ friend Patyegarang is renamed Tagaran. The first governor of the colony is not Arthur Phillip but James Gilbert. A chronicler of the early days of the colony - Watkin Tench - is now Captain Silk. I can see that renaming historical figures gave Grenville the freedom to depart from her sources and make the novel a work of the imagination rather than a work in which faithfulness to the historical facts is expected. However, as a reader with some knowledge of those historical facts, it was initially disconcerting to be confronted by characters I knew by other names. It ceased to matter, though, as I became fully engrossed in Rooke’s journey of self-discovery.

For me, the most fascinating aspect of the novel is Rooke’s connection with Tagaran and the process of learning and recording the Cadigal language. I love learning about language and at heart I’m a frustrated linguist. Anyone who has spent time learning a foreign language knows that magical moment when an undifferentiated mass of sound resolves itself into recognisable words and then into sentences in which the parts of speech can be identified, even if some of the individual words remain unfamiliar. Modern language learning is supported by teachers, manuals, dictionaries and sound recordings, which don’t make learning a language any less interesting, but do make the process predictable. Reading this novel made me appreciate how it must have been for those who learned a language not previously heard or recorded. When, through his interaction with Tagaran, Rooke starts to recognise not just individual words but the patterns formed by syntax and grammar, he wonders:
Was this what Galileo had felt, turning his telescope to the night sky and seeing stars that no one had seen before?
Learning a new vocabulary and grammar is one thing. Forming a connection with another human being through that language is something else. For Rooke, this starts to occur when he and Tagaran are able to share a joke. He records the moment:
What had passed between Tagaran and himself had gone far beyond vocabulary or grammatical forms. It was the heart of talking; not just the words and not just the meaning, but the way in which two people had found common ground and begun to discover the true names of things.
Rooke later contemplates what happens when understanding of language deepens to the extent that a real conversation can occur:
This exchange was not a language lesson. It was a conversation. For the first time, he and Tagaran were on the same side of the mirror of language, simply speaking to each other. Understanding went in both directions. Once two people shared a language, they could no longer use it to hide.
And then language leads to something else again; not just a conversation, but a relationship:
What he had not learned from Latin and Greek he was learning from the people of New South Wales. It was this: you did not learn a language without entering into a relationship with the people who spoke it with you. His friendship with Tagaran was not a list of objects … It was the slow constructing of the map of a relationship.

The names of things, if you truly wanted to understand them, were as much about the spaces between the words as they were about the words themselves. Learning a language was not a matter of joining two points with a line. It was a leap into the other.
In depicting the relationship between Daniel Rooke and Tagaran, Grenville shows the life-changing experiences which can result from true communication between people from totally different worlds. For William Dawes, the man on whom Daniel Rooke is based, his relationship with the Cadigal people of New South Wales was life-changing indeed. It directly led to his later career working for the abolition of slavery in Antigua.

This is neither a long novel, nor a difficult novel to read. What stops me from giving it five stars is that the last part of the work feels rushed. Very little time is devoted to Rooke’s experiences after he makes a decision which affects his future in the colony and the summing up of his career after leaving New South Wales comes too soon. Many novels are too long for their content. This one is arguably too short.
( )
  KimMR | Apr 2, 2013 |
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Dedicated to Patyegarang and the Cadigal people
and William Dawes.
Their story inspired this work of fiction.
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Daniel Rooke was quiet, moody, a man of few words.
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A gripping story about friendship, self-discovery, and the power of language, set along the unspoiled shores of 1788 New South Wales.

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

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Canongate Books

2 editions of this book were published by Canongate Books.

Editions: 1847673449, 1847673473

Penguin Australia

3 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 1921351780, 1921520485, 192165676X

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