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The Secret River [Kindle Edition]

Kate Grenville
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (145 customer reviews)

Print List Price: £8.99
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Book Description

London, 1807. William Thornhill, happily wedded to his childhood sweetheart Sal, is a waterman on the River Thames. Life is tough but bearable until William makes a mistake, a bad mistake for which he and his family are made to pay dearly. His sentence: to be transported to New South Wales for the term of his natural life. The Thornhills arrive in this harsh and alien land that they cannot understand and which feels like a death sentence. But among the convicts there is a rumour that freedom can be bought, that 'unclaimed' land up the Hawkesbury offers an opportunity to start afresh, far away from the township of Sydney. When William takes a hundred acres for himself he is shocked to find Aboriginal people already living on the river. And other recent arrivals - Thomas Blackwood, Smasher Sullivan and Mrs Herring - are finding their own ways to respond to them. Soon Thornhill, a man neither better nor worse than most, has to make the most difficult decision of his life.


Product Description

Review

"Grenville, as ever, describes an Australia so overwhelmingly beautiful that readers will lust after its sunbaked soul too." -- Daily Telegraph

In this dazzling novel . . . Grenville achieves a fine balance of
sympathy for the Aboriginal population of her native Australia . .
.Stunning.
-- The Independent, 1/09/06

a vivid evocation of the rawest kind of colonialism -- Waterstone's Books Quarterly

Review

"Fabulous historical fiction." (The Australian)

"One of the most entertaining, accomplished, engaging novels written in this country." (The Courier Mail)

"The Secret River is a powerful, highly credible account of how a limited man of good instincts becomes involved in enormity and atrocity. It is, at one remove, a sane and moving allegory of Australian development. It has quiet drama and drama of the hectic ghastly breakneck kind. It would make a fine film.It has the subtlety of being a sort of Swiss Family Robinson saga about the Australian dream. In historical terms it dramatises the settler's dream and it all but climaxes in its representation of the Australian nightmare. Then there is calm and sadness and the colour drained from the dream. The Secret River is a historical novel, full of contemporary insight and it is also a subtle expression in fictional terms of the myth of collective guilt for the fate of the Aborigines. It is to Kate Grenville's credit that she never surrenders her sense of the individual faces she captures as she tells this story. I suspect a lot of readers are going to find this book both subtle and satisfying." (The Age)

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1443 KB
  • Print Length: 358 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books; Main edition (2 Feb. 2006)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002RI9UCC
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (145 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #11,770 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
97 of 99 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gripping novel that draws you in 1 Dec. 2007
By Julia Flyte TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
I loved this book. I read it very quickly because it was so hard to put down. Kate Grenville writes beautifully and captures the magic of the Australian landscape.

The story is about William Thornhill who is sentenced to life as a convict in Australia in the early 19th century. The first part of the book concerns his life in Georgian England. He is born into abject poverty and although he tries to make an honest go of it, circumstances lead him into crime. He is convicted of theft and his sentence is to be transported to New South Wales for the term of his natural life. His wife and child accompany him. This part of the book is a little slow, but the momentum picks up once they get to Australia, about 75 pages in.

In Australia, Thornhill discovers that the new country represents a blank slate where he can re-invent himself and break out of the cycle of poverty and crime that he has come from. He quickly wins his freedom and seizes the opportunity to get his own land and create his own farm, staking a claim to 100 seemingly vacant acres of land. However this brings him directly into contact (and potentially into conflict) with the native Aboriginal people.

The book is beautifully written. It really takes you into the world of early colonial Australia and gives you a sense of how difficult a life the early settlers had. The tension builds and builds as it become obvious that some kind of conflict between Thornhill's family and the Aborigines is inevitable. It made me understand the way that good people can be conflicted about what the right thing to do is. Different settlers in the area make different decisions and as you read the book, it you wonder how you would have acted in the same circumstances. But aside from the moral dilemmas, it's just a good story: a man trying to create a new and better life for himself and his family, overcoming many hurdles and setbacks, and gradually realising that the biggest threat of all is right in front of him.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating story 27 Feb. 2008
By Wynne Kelly TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
I picked this book up at a hotel in Vietnam from one of those "take one, leave one" shelves. Having never heard of the author or the book I didn't hold out much hope of enjoying it but thought it might help to pass a bumpy seven hour bus journey I had coming up the next day.

It didn't take long for me to be pulled into the story of Will Thornhill and his feisty wife Sal. A poverty stricken waterman is condemned to hang in early 19th century London but with the help of his wife has his sentence changed to transportation. Some excellent descriptive writings of London scenes and of life in New South Wales. Through hard work and luck Will takes on 100 acres of land on the edge of a river. But there are others lurking and his land which is now legally his - aboriginals. They seem to come and go, taking crops he has grown and showing no `respect' for the new owners. The author does well to view this clash from a 19th century viewpoint. It is too easy to see it from a liberal 21st century standpoint. Will's family shows no concept of what the land means to "the blacks" - there is plenty more land that they can go to, so why should they hang around here?

However one of their sons, Dick, is instinctively attracted to the aboriginal people and begins to learn about their ways until forbidden by Will. (I feel more could have been made of this but perhaps Grenville didn't want to go off at too many tangents)

The optimism of the Thornhill's is tinged with sadness. If Will's family is to remain on "their" land then a solution to the "molestations and depredations" must be found. We know that a tragedy awaits the native people but when it comes it is shocking and horrific.

On the surface this is a good family saga.
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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An uncomfortable read 8 Oct. 2007
Format:Paperback
William Thornhill grows up in poverty in London, takes to petty crime and then gets a chance to become a waterman, a good way of earning honest money but then is thrown back into poverty again when his sponsor dies. He then resorts to crime again and is sentenced to death but that sentence is commuted to transporation.

From this start, the reader is on his side as he battles to support himself and his family. He is in the midst of a society which values property way above human life.

It was in the telling of the story of Thornhill and his wife trying to build something up in Australia that I realised with a shock that I was rooting for him even though as the story progresses this is at the expense of the indigenous people. He isn't a bad man but there are some among the settlers who see things as more give and take but he can't quite succeed in doing that as his own desire to have some land and something of his own comes before anything else and indigenous people are of no account to him.

I think this ambivalent feeling comes from the writing which is even-handed, unemotional and non-judgmental which is why it came as such a shock.

Thornhill is a vivid character, other characters, even including his wife, less so, and everything is tending towards the moment when Thornhill has to make a choice.

There are some very beautiful descriptions of the landscape, making it sound in some ways like a latterday Garden of Eden, but dangerous.

It did start to drag for me about a third of the way through. I did find it an interesting read but it did make me feel uncomfortable because I found myself questioning whose "side" I should be on. I think for such a calm style of writing to achieve that effect is worthy of praise but I have only given it three stars as I felt it dragged and the only well-drawn protagonist was Thornhill himself.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
A decent read
Published 13 days ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars A good book as it gave a feel for the social ...
A good book as it gave a feel for the social and economic conditions in England, and in particular London, 200 years ago and of the hardships faced by the convicts on arrival in... Read more
Published 26 days ago by Mike Evans
3.0 out of 5 stars I quite enjoyed this - the storyline very intersting but the actual...
I quite enjoyed this - the storyline very intersting but the actual story telling could have been much improved upon.
Published 1 month ago by CMcL
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent - again
Excellent - again. Read it for yourself and get a completely new insight into early days in Australia and the lives of those transportees who survived and made good
Published 1 month ago by P. N. Winfield
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent depiction of life in the penal colonies. A good read!
Published 1 month ago by Sheila Hughes
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
Good book rather blood thirsty although true to history
Published 1 month ago by Jen
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Learnt such a lot about a country I was about to visit. Fabulous.
Published 2 months ago by RD
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
wonderful book and good price
Published 2 months ago by eilsel
4.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant challenging read about the horrors of the abuse of ...
A brilliant challenging read about the horrors of the abuse of the indigenous population when the convicts and settlers landed.
Published 2 months ago by aideen ohalloran
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended
Found this book both fascinating and gripping in its portrayal of early Australia and the lives of its early European settlers. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Happy Reader 8
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