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The Secret River
 
 

The Secret River [Kindle Edition]

Kate Grenville
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (122 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Review

"We have had to wait five years for The Secret River but the wait has been worth it... Splendidly paced, passionate and disturbing." The Times "Grenville, as ever, describes an Australia so overwhelmingly beautiful that readers will lust after its sunbaked soul too." Daily Telegraph "A sad book, beautifully written and, at times, almost unbearable with the weight of loss, competing distresses and the impossibility of making amends." Observer "Grenville's skill is to turn what could have been too obviously a representative moral fable into a rich novel of character." Sunday Telegraph"

Book Description

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

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 823 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:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (122 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #15,392 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
90 of 92 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 50 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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41 of 42 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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24 of 25 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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A great book, highly recommended.
This is one of the best books I have read in recent years. A superb account of the life of convicts and settlers in early Australia and their relationships with each other and with... Read more
Published 12 days ago by Fishpix2010
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant
Absolutely brilliant. A 'Must Read'.
Published 15 days ago by Ivan Buick
5.0 out of 5 stars strongly recommended
Fantastic book. Strongly recommended for anyone any time. But particularly strongly recommended if you are going on a trip to Sydney and fancy a novel (genuine page-turner! Read more
Published 16 days ago by Chazza
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
A challenging read and do not neglect to go on to the sequel!
Published 18 days ago by CDE
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Good product good price
Published 19 days ago by Mr H I Williams
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Enjoyed
Published 20 days ago by tibby
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Read it while i was visiting Western Australia and Urulu... sooo interesting and informative as well as totally absorbing.
Published 20 days ago by Mrs Edwina M Elliott
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting!
An interesting insight into the British convicts arriving in Sydney - quite an 'eye-opener'.
Published 26 days ago by Yoghurt Pot
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down!
I loved this book and found it hard to put down! I enjoyed Grenville's writing and found it to be very evocative. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Olivia Fair
5.0 out of 5 stars Disturbing and compelling
Fascinating insight into the lives of transports settlers, how some prospered, but others jettisoned their humanity. A lasting impression left once the novel is finished.
Published 1 month ago by Mary
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A man never knew what kind of stuff he was made of, until the situation arose to bring it out of him. &quote;
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