4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A true novel,
This review is from: The Secret River (Paperback)
It is not easy for an author to turn an important page of a nation's history, and create a compelling story out of it. But then, Kate Grenville is not your average writer. All the talents that won her the Orange Prize are displayed with unforgiving clarity in her latest offering...
Based partly, if not more, on a true story tied to Grenville's own ancestral roots, the novel centres around William Thornhill who is born into a big suburban family in London struggling to come to terms with their poverty. He becomes a waterman on River Thames, and weds his sweetheart Sal. He succumbs, however, to a grave weakness, and is condemned to a terrible fate - a life sentence in the then newly discovered English colony for the damned, Australia.
The story is then one of struggle - a perennial one between the foreigners who conquer a native land, and the natives who fight back. There are no winners in this game. Only losers. The natives, who lose their right to an existence, and the white settlers who lose their own sense of morality and righteousness.
Grenville spares no one in exposing the colonial era for what it was, and what it represented - the shabby minds that represented the gentry and the aristocracy in London, and the force of corruption that weighs down heavily on the ordinary and the wise to sheer brutality and arrogance.
The tale is poignant, and at times, overwhelmingly sad. Grenville's prose is simple, yet gripping and uncompromising. The characters linger on in the reader's mind long after he or she finishes the novel - particularly, Sal - and this does the story immense credit. Her descriptive powers are at once evocative, and truly picturesque. The reader is transported into a unique world from which escape, at times desirable, is painfully impossible.
As Patrick White said, "it is a pleasure to be able to praise a true novelist."