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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unveiling the secret
I gobbled up this book almost as avidly as I had consumed the novel 'The Secret River' that was its subject. The story of Kate Grenville's research takes us on a journey to Old East London and her discovery there of the kinds of astonishing events which shaped in the lives of her ancestor and of so many of those early convict settlers transported to Australia instead of...
Published on 13 May 2009 by Dr Ruth

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I was a bit disappointed
Having read The Secret River, and having visited the Hawkesbury River and used the existing Wiseman's ferry I was really looking forward to reading this book. I didn't really find it very satisfying.I suppose I was hoping for more information about the history of the area. For me there was too much of London and not enough of New South Wales.
Published on 2 May 2010 by Mum of 3


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unveiling the secret, 13 May 2009
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This review is from: Searching For The Secret River: The Story Behind the Bestselling Novel (Paperback)
I gobbled up this book almost as avidly as I had consumed the novel 'The Secret River' that was its subject. The story of Kate Grenville's research takes us on a journey to Old East London and her discovery there of the kinds of astonishing events which shaped in the lives of her ancestor and of so many of those early convict settlers transported to Australia instead of being strung up on a London gallows. Thence to Sydney and eventually to 'taking up' land on the Hawkesbury River. Land stolen from the aboriginal inhabitants whose home it was for tens of thousands of years before the English invasion. A longing for knowledge of that land theft, what it cost both sides in the struggle, let alone social justice for the Aboriginal people today comes through more explicitly here, whilst implicit in the novel. A compelling read this, and it has fanned the spark in me that has long simmered to find out more of the truth in my own family of pioneering free settlers in Australia. I cannot know how those without this personal interest in her themes and her research might respond to this work. Kate Grenville is a story teller of consumate skill who so satisfies her reader that I highly recommend this book to all, especially those who have read the novel and have the curiosity to wonder, 'How did she do that?'.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Much more than "a writing memoir", 27 Aug 2009
By 
Friederike Knabe "Books are funny little port... (Ottawa, Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Searching For The Secret River: The Story Behind the Bestselling Novel (Paperback)
Anybody who has read Kate Grenville's award winning The Secret River is bound to be curious about the parallels between Grenville's real ancestor, Solomon Wiseman, and the fictional William Thornhill, both convicts shipped off from London to Australia in the beginning of the nineteenth century. While starting out to write a biography of her great-great-great grandfather, what research did she embark on, what discoveries and mental processes led her in the end to move from a biography to a work of historical fiction? The author, honest, self-aware and self-critical, takes the reader on a fascinating journey into her mind, her feelings and analyses of people and places. Also, and of equal interest to those who have not (yet) read the novel, this "writer's memoir" is an enjoyable "how to" guide for any personal writing project. It contains a few "mantras about writing", such as "never start with a blank page", or "don't wait for time to write", etc. Grenville, who also teaches creative writing, walks the talk herself and the insights she shares with her readers make this a very personal and engaging story.

I use the term "story" deliberately as it reads much more like a story of discovery and less as a writer's guide or even a "memoir". Her exquisite style and rich language that evoke landscapes and city-scapes in such vivid colours and detail that you feel you are walking along with her. Her research into the real great-great-great grandfather was not straight forward, of course, as records were scarce, family stories were not factual and there were numerous Solomon W. and dozens of Wisemans living in London around the same time in the same part of town... How she narrows down her search is also a guide for anybody interested in their own family genealogy - just fascinating. One aspect that helped her later on in her writing (and the reader of the novel will recognize them): she picked up small mementoes, stood on the spot where she imagined her ancestor had been standing. As soon as she made the connection, she can feel him, get under his skin. Only then does the character develop his own persona and as author she has to accept that she follows and he controls.

Immense amount of research spanning several years resulted in filling one major gap in her knowledge or imagination after another. Recreating the language of working class people and fishermen as spoken in the late seventeen nineties was another challenge Grenville had to deal with: Solomon was not literate but later historical documents suggest that he learned to write, although in a stilted, ungrammatical sort of way. While the author made remarkable progress on the male side of her family, the female side, her great-great-great grandmother remained a mystery to her for the longest time. Few information snippets existed in the family archive and memory... so what to do? Her answer, after several false starts, is intriguing, and not only from the perspective of the novel's character development.

The most difficult part of her search and research, however, was to imagine how the real Solomon Wiseman reacted to and interacted with the Aborigines when he and his young family first arrived in Australia. In investigating what might have happened, Grenville realized that she herself lacked much information and knowledge about the life of the aboriginal peoples of her country. Her learning path in this field is deeply moving as she gently and subtly explores what happened at the time of early confrontation and what could have been Wiseman's role in these encounters. For her own life it was another voyage of discovery.

This "writing memoir" is such a beautifully and engagingly written book that it should be seen as an essential compendium for those who read THE SECRET RIVER. For others it is still a great read and probably a motivation to pick up the novel afterwards. [Friederike Knabe]
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Secret River, 10 July 2009
By 
SM Blair - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Searching For The Secret River: The Story Behind the Bestselling Novel (Paperback)
I loved this book. Kate Grenville creates the sights and smells of each destination she takes us to from London's east end in the late 18th century to the Australian bush of the early 19th century. We stand beside the emancipated convicts, through their ignorance and growing arrogance and newly found power over the indigent population, to the tragic conclusion. A thought provoking read leaving me wanting more from this writer and the characters she has created.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful book, 17 Sep 2013
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An absolutely wonderful companion to The Secret River, which is in my opinion one of the best novels ever written. I will never write a book myself but found her artistic and moral dilemmas totally absorbing. Particularly her decisions regarding the Aboriginal story. She has not written a bad book , give this book a go, either just before or just after reading The Secret River
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, and adds a new dimension to the original book., 15 Aug 2013
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This review is from: Searching For The Secret River: The Story Behind the Bestselling Novel (Paperback)
I loved The Secret River and wasn't sure whether knowing the background would spoil it - but it didn't at all. I was fascinated. And she does write so well!
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5.0 out of 5 stars As gripping as the novels of the, 7 Dec 2012
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C. Evans (Wales, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Searching For The Secret River: The Story Behind the Bestselling Novel (Paperback)
Very interesting as background to her award-winning novels and also as readable exploration of family history and the writer's work.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 21 Nov 2012
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This review is from: Searching For The Secret River: The Story Behind the Bestselling Novel (Paperback)
Fascinating to witness the gestation and birth of a novel, with all the struggles involved. Would recommend it as you don't often have the opportunity to see how a novel shapes up through many different drafts.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Good for poms, 11 Mar 2012
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R. C. Tuck - See all my reviews
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Should have a warning for "wingeing poms" What it must have been like in those early days doesn't bear thinking about to our modern lifestyle.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Searching for the secret River, 17 July 2009
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This review is from: Searching For The Secret River: The Story Behind the Bestselling Novel (Paperback)
Having enjoyed the book Secret River as recomended by a BBC Radio Four program. I was interested to learn of "Searching for the Secret River" book.
I was not dissapointed. It was a clear and enjoyable read informative. The discritions were so real and Kate Greenways reserch was an exciting journey.
Likewise the native story and customs.
Having compelted Kate's book I imedately reread her "Secret River". Understanding and enjoying the skills of Kates writting.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 21 Nov 2012
This review is from: Searching For The Secret River: The Story Behind the Bestselling Novel (Paperback)
Well detailed account if the conception and writing of a best selling novel. I would recommend it to readers and writers alike.
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