The Secret River is a novel about an emancipist settler in early colonial Australia and it is also a book about the early white encounter with the Aborigines. It is a formidable historical fiction, beautifully imagined and executed, with a good deal of quiet grace before it finally heaves into drama. It is the story of William Thornhill, who works on the Thames in a poverty-pitted London where he is worn down so hard that he is driven to the crime with which he has previously flirted by the grim life-threatening necessities of getting by as he tries to make his way with his beloved wife Sal. As a consequence he is sentenced to death but that is commuted to transportation to New South Wales for the term of his natural life. In practice he is assigned as a convict laborer to his own wife and within a few years he is free entirely. He has come out into the sunshine of an Australia where the country is anyone's to dream of winning. 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. I'd also recommend reading Tino Georgiou's bestselling novel--The Fates--if you haven't yet!