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Sarah Thornhill Paperback – 2 Feb 2012

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd (2 Feb. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0857862553
  • ISBN-13: 978-0857862556
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 2.4 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 405,887 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'I was thrilled to find myself back beside the river I'd come to know so well in The Secret River. The power with which Kate Grenville's evokes places and people is so remarkable that I could remember the smell of the air there - and it was no surprise to discover that Sarah Thornhill's story is as gripping and illuminating as her father's was' --Diana Athill

'Here is someone who can really write' --Peter Carey

'A beautifully uplifting piece of fiction' -- Independent

'A graceful, passionate story of love, loss and treacherous family histories' -- Marie Claire

'Grenville inhabits characters with a rare completeness ... She writes with a poet's sense of rhythm and imagery' -- Guardian

'Be warned: [Sarah Thornhill] will wrench your heart ... Grenville's description of the harshly beautiful Australian landscape is unforgettable, more poetry than prose' -- Guardian

'Both brilliant fiction and illuminating personal history' -- Arifa Akbar, The Independent

'Her voice has an attractive personality and proves adept at describing the landscape and those who struggle to survive in its unforgiving beauty' -- The Daily Telegraph

'Kate Grenville has completed her trilogy with another enthralling tale' -- Ion Trewin, Sunday Express

'Richly wrapped in language so colourful and lively, you can taste it' -- Tom Adair, The Scotsman

'It is with often marvellous vividness and clarity that Grenville evokes Sarah's world [she] is well inhabited by her creator, and through the eyes of this young woman, the physical and cultural strangenesses of a nation still clambering into existence spring richly to life' -- Belinda McKeon, Guardian

Grenville has once again vividly captured a world of conflict, change and a clash of cultures. This extremely enjoyable novel can be read alone or as part of the trilogy --Good Book Guide

About the Author

Kate Grenville, one of Australia's most celebrated authors, has had her award-winning novels published worldwide. The Secret River won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and Lilian's Story; The Idea of Perfection won the Orange Prize for Fiction. Kate Grenville's convict ancestor inspired The Secret River, and Sarah Thornhill also has its beginnings in her family history. Along with The Lieutenant, these three novels form a loose trilogy about colonial Australia.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

58 of 64 people found the following review helpful By MisterHobgoblin TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 24 April 2012
Format: Paperback
Australia has issues with the role and status of Aboriginal people. Much of the current bad situation is believed to have been set in train by previous poor decisions dating right back to the settlement by Europeans and to have been compounded by mistake after mistake. Kate Grenville has addressed this previously in The Secret River and The Lieutenant.

In Sarah Thornhill, Kate Grenville takes us one generation further forward. The young Sarah doesn't have memories of "home"; she is a member of the first generation of Europeans to know only Australia. This allows some of the initial charting and claim-staking by her parents to be ancient history. One of the intriguing aspects of Australian history is how much written detail there is of the convict and migrant generations whilst the relatively recent social history in Australia has been lost to the mists of time.

Thus, the young Sarah has to delve and dig to discover who she is; who her parents really are; and who her family is. Much of this is delivered through grudging whispers and insinuations in a society where neighbours are shunned and strangers receive a hostile reception. Sarah initially seeks solace in her encounters with Aboriginal families who wander across the Thornhill land - until her father puts her straight. Instead, she is sent off to marry a young Irish man whom she tries hard to love.

This is contrasted with the different relationship that European settlers forged with the Maori population in New Zealand - where the Maori culture was embraced and allowed to flourish. At least, that's the story; the reality may have been less rosy at times. Sarah is brought into a position where she has to consider her family relationships and ties in the light of discovering the truth about various family members.
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27 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Susanna on 2 Aug. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have been a huge fan of Kate Grenville's `The Secret River' for years, and I was really looking forward to reading more about the Thornhill family. However, I have to confess that that I was very disappointed with `Sarah Thornhill.'

In my opinion, the better story would have been that of the adopted Maori granddaughter who was brought to the Thornhill household. Yet, Rachel is never anything more than a token character in the book and I got the sense that Grenville took the easy way out by focussing on the life of Sarah, instead.
The book starts well enough and Grenville's skill as a writer shines through. I quickly became enthralled by the continuing struggle of the early settlers to carve out their lives in the harsh but stunningly beautiful, Australian outback.

Sarah starts as a strong and fascinating character (albeit illiterate) with a distinctive voice of her own:
`They called us the Colony of New South Wales. I never liked that. We wasn't new anything. We was ourselves.'

In her mid-teens, Sarah falls passionately in love with a Jack Langland, the mixed-race son of a neighbour. She enjoys a wonderful sexual relationship with him under the nose of her family, who seem to have an ambivalent (and not wholly convincing) attitude to the blacks. They refuse to sanction the inter-racial marriage of the young lovers, who are torn apart but welcome Jack into their house and adopt the mixed-race daughter of their dead son.
Sadly, this is where the book began to go downhill for me. Sarah and Jack are not Cathy and Heathcliff, or Romeo and Juliet; I felt they gave up the fight for each other very quickly.
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I did read this book, every word of it, hoping for a development in the story, but it ended in disappointment. What happened to Sarah Thornhill? Did she return to her husband and child and have further adventures? There were no adventures or indeed stories worth telling in this book. Sarah's passionate affair with Jack ended abruptly and unnecessarily and her subsequent marriage to the kindly John Daunt did not develop beyond the birth of their first child, for she was whisked away to New Zealand for no good reason that I could see. Yes, the prose is flowing and beautiful and this is one reason for continuing to read this book. I was so annoyed, however, by the almost studied use of "of" instead of "have" throughout and I could have [not "of"!] given up on the book many times. Was this intended to emphasise the fact that Sarah was illiterate? I just wish she had been "home schooled". After all, she was able to write this tale at some point in her life. The questions at the end of the book suggest that it could be used as a reading group study, but one hopes it will never get into schools as a text. Enough young people, presumably literate, believe that "of" is a verb. I enjoyed "The Secret River", but "Sarah Thornhill" failed as its sequel. Other reviewers have mentioned the child, Rachel, whose story would have made much more interesting reading, if it had been developed. In short, this book is not worth your time if you have better books waiting to be read.
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