The Secret River – Kate Grenville

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Winner of the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize 2006
Shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2006

 

 

 

William Thornhill is born into poverty, in 19th century London; to survive he turns to crime. One night he is caught stealing from his employer, and sentenced to death.  He pleads for mercy, and manages to escape the rope by agreeing to be sent, with his family, to Australia. Once they arrive in this strange, hot country they find that they face new battles for survival, against the mysterious native black people.

This book is really easy to read, the simplicity of the prose was reminiscent of Mudbound, by Hilary Jordan, which although written about a different continent, contains many of the same powerful messages about the humanity of different cultures. 

The Secret River is a fascinating insight into what life was like for the first settlers of New South Wales.  William Thornhill is one of the first white people to cultivate the land, fencing in his crops. This quickly leads to animosity, and ultimately tragedy, as the nomadic society, who gather food wherever they can, object to their land being taken from them. Kate Grenville’s portrayal of the aboriginal people is touching; she shows them as a proud people, at one with nature. She beautifully describes the conflict between the two cultures; showing how each is affected by the others actions, and giving no prejudice to either side.

I really enjoyed reading this book, the characters were well developed, and I didn’t envy the difficult descisions they had to make.  The plot was fast moving, and the end rounded everything off well. I was pleased that it was tinged with hope, as I was expecting it to be very bleak.

Highly recommended to all fans of historical fiction.

This is the first book by Kate Grenville that I have read, but I will be keeping an eye out for all of her other books, as I enjoyed this one so much.

Have you read any books written by Kate Grenville? If so, which one did you enjoy the most?


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17 Comments

  1. Karen says:

    This is definitely my favourite Kate Grenville book – just loved it when I read it a little while ago. I also really loved the book she wrote about the writing process of this book – “Searching for the Secret River” – fantastic insight into her process and thinking.

  2. Jackie says:

    Karen – I saw ‘Searching for the Secret River’ when I was seacrhing for the photo for this book. I looked really interesting, so it’s great to know that it is worth reading. I’ll have to add it to the wishlist!

  3. Wendy says:

    Glad to see you liked this one as much as I did, Jackie. This is the only Grenville I’ve read, but I am keen to read more of her books!

  4. Carrie K. says:

    Another review that has me adding to my ever-growing wish list! I love well-written historical fiction, and this sounds like one I would enjoy.

    I also wanted to let you know that I’ve moved my blog, Books and Movies, due to some unfortunate policy changes at Today.com. My new blog is still called Books and Movies and will still have the same stuff: http://booksandmovies.colvilleblogger.com/

    Hope to see you there!

  5. Sandy says:

    I’ve not read anything by this author, but she sounds like a phenomenal author. How on earth do you read so much stuff? I just shake my head! Keep it up!

  6. Teddy says:

    I’m glad you enjoyed it Jackie! It’s one of my favorite books of all time!

    I have her new book which will be realised in Canada in May. I had to promise not to post a review until May 15th.

  7. So far I have read only read The Idea of Perfection, which I enjoyed tremendously, but The Secret River is high on my tbr pile.

  8. Beth F says:

    I remember hearing great things about this book. I’ll have remind myself to actually read it!

  9. Jackie says:

    Wendy – I hope to read The Idea of Perfection soon- probably for Orange July I hope it is as good as this one.

    Sandy – When books are as good as this and Little Face you’d read quickly too!

    Teddy – I didn’t realise she had a new book out, so I went to check – it was released here in Feb. I’ll have to go and find a copy!

  10. Jackie says:

    Anna – Thank you for visiting my blog. I’d love to have left a comment on yours, but I’m afraid I couldn’t understand it. I wish my language skills were as good as yours. The Secret River was excellent. I’m sure you’ll love it when you get round to reading it.

  11. Sarah says:

    I enjoyed this, so am glad you did as well. You might like to listen to the recent BBC World Book Club which featured Kate Grenville speaking about this book. (The link to the podcast is http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/wbc)

    Her latest novel The Lieutenant is also historical fiction about early Australia so you should look out for that.I’d definitely recommend The Idea of Perfection as well.

  12. Jackie says:

    Sarah – Thank you for the link. I’ve downloaded the podcast, and will listen to it later.

    I nearly ordered The Lieutenant yesterday, but I read a few average reviews for it, so decided I could wait until I find a secondhand copy of it. Have you read it? Do you think it is anywhere near as good as The Secret River?

  13. Cathy says:

    I recently got my hands on a copy of this book, and your review makes me want to move it to the top of my TBR piles.

  14. Sarah says:

    I have read it and think it’s a quieter but just as interesting read which looks at the European-Aboriginal relationship which isn’t at least initially as hostile as in The Secret River. A good companion piece to The Secret River.

  15. Jackie says:

    Cathy – I’m pleased my review has altered your TBR pile. I look forward to reading your review when you get round to reading it.

    Sarah – I think I’ll save The Lietenant for later in the year. I think I’d prefer to read Searching for thr Secrect River first. I’m really pleased I’ve discovered Kate Grenville!

  16. CoversGirl says:

    Three more books for my list! I’m forever thinking I should read more Australian fiction, and I’ve heard a lot of good things about Kate Grenville’s writing.

  17. megan says:

    This is definitely my favourite Kate Grenville novel, but Lillian’s Story is fabulous as well. :)

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