The Secret River

The Secret River

Book - 2005
Average Rating:
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The Orange Prize-winning author Kate Grenville recalls her family's history in an astounding novel about the pioneers of New South Wales. Already a best seller in Australia, The Secret River is the story of Grenville's ancestors, who wrested a new life from the alien terrain of Australia and its native people. London, 1806. William Thornhill, a Thames bargeman, is deported to the New South Wales colony in what would become Australia. In this new world of convicts and charlatans, Thornhill tries to pull his family into a position of power and comfort. When he rounds a bend in the Hawkesbury River and sees a gentle slope of land, he becomes determined to make the place his own. But, as uninhabited as the island appears, Australia is full of native people, and they do not take kindly to Thornhill's theft of their home.

The Secret River is the tale of Thornhill's deep love for his small corner of the new world, and his slow realization that if he wants to settle there, he must ally himself with the most despicable of the white settlers, and to keep his family safe, he must permit terrifying cruelty to come to innocent people.
Publisher: Edinburgh ; New York : Canongate, 2005
Edition: 1st American ed
ISBN: 9781841957975
9781841959146
1841957976
Characteristics: 334 p. : map ; 24 cm

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WVMLBookClubTitles Aug 23, 2014

Felons transported to Australia in the early 19th century could (with good behaviour) become landowners. Our hero William Thornhill finally finds himself on a stunningly beautiful finger of land on the banks of the Hawkesbury River, a place he has coveted for years. However the Aboriginal people already living along the river see the land as their own. This novel is an outstanding study of cultures in collision, where an essentially good man has to make a disastrous decision.

s
Sansha
Jan 12, 2014

What a harsh and brutal painting is described of both the people and landscape of colonial Australia. It sadden me to think humankind is still fighting and committing atrocities through misunderstanding and greed.

c
calvoer
Mar 15, 2012

This is a perfect book for anyone who enjoys historical novels about the hardships of pioneering. It's the Australian version of Manifest Destiny, with the British immigrants pitted against Maori natives living inland from Sydney. An unforgettable read.

g
GLNovak
Mar 15, 2012

What sets this story apart from all the others I have read about Australia's history is the ending. Most gloss over the treatment of the native population but this one is very blunt. The main character, William Thornhill, has his flaws, like any other man.

g
grapes555go
Feb 12, 2012

I didn't like the ending. I wanted the main character to make a different, more satisfying choice.

c
CalindaB
Aug 18, 2010

Kate Grenville manages to bring two different worlds to life in this novel - the hardscrabble life of a bargeman on the Thames and the utterly astounding new world of Australia.

It is a tough read, especially knowing that this is probably how colonies began, with misunderstandings and deliberate ignorance. And she reveals how deep the racism that let the colonial era flourish was in the most average of people.

g
gailygirl
Sep 15, 2007

Kate Grenville won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2001 for The Idea of Perfection, but this is my first read by this author. The prose is brilliant - the descriptive narrative awesome. And the truth of this novel actually hurts because it is so honest and straightforward. This is a page-turner that will give you goosebumps if not nightmares.

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