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“"The Secret River" is a good story full of death, longing and resurrection. But it is also about how people fail to communicate. This failure is understandable when it involves the colonists and the natives. But it also exists between the whites who speak the same language. One of my favorite...”see full review » see other reviews »
“In Kate Grenville's lyrical descriptions of the Australian landscape through the bewildered eyes of an Englishman, one can see why this novel garnered a number of awards. Her exploration of William Thornhill - convict and colonist - and his role in the white settlement along the Hawkesbury River (NSW, early 1800s) presents an at times painful portrayal of colonialist violence against the native aborigines. This clash of two cultures occurs at a number of levels, from the apparently mundane, to shocking scenes of brutality. Despite some inconsistencies in the protagonist's character development, Thornhill's narrative offers a unique and critical perspective on colonial Australian history. An important and captivating read. ”C Taylor wrote this review Sunday, August 4, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“in my research for finding (and reading) more books by Australian authors, this one came up multiple times as a 'must read'. I enjoyed this book, but it didn't blow me away.
The book is the story of a poor english man in the 1800's who is convicted of a crime and is sentenced to the death penalty, but is spared and sent to the penal colony of Australia.
After serving his time, he, his devoted wife and children they build a new life farm life out of the Australian wilderness and in amongst the 'savages'.
I enjoyed reading about the trials and tribulations of pioneering Australians and how difficult it must have been to set-up a new life in a foreign land that was so different to the one they had left.
The book is confronting with the fear from both the native aboriginal people and the new settlers, and the violence that persists. Throughout the story William Thornhill comes to see that the 'savages' are fellow human beings inextricably linked to the land. Linked in a way that he, his family, and fellow settlers would never experience. However, it's fear for his family, built from the fear and hatred from fellow settlers around him that drives him to take part in the horrors that fall on the aboriginals at the hands of the settlers. By the end of the book Thornhill is a different man to the one that first came to Australia and in the final chapters he looks back on how he, a seemingly moral man, came to be the man he is.
I enjoyed this novel, and its portrayal of colonial Australia is well researched. Even though it was written from the settlers perspective, it did not paint them in all glowing light, but included the brutal treatment (which was hard to read at times) by the white settlers to the native Australians.
hat makes this book so believable and therefore so confronting, is the dawning realisation of the main character Will that the "blacks" with whom he shares his land are indeed fellow human beings who have claims to the land, and who are inextricably linked with it the way he and his family will never be. However, it is fear for his family, whipped up by other far less sensitive souls along the river, which drives him to the horror that has so blighted early Australian history.
“This is a story of New South Wales settlement. William Thornhill grew up in London in the last decades of the 1700's. The novel ends about 1830.The characters and the scenery are very well developed and there is plenty of action.”bookfan wrote this review Wednesday, May 29, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“13 4/5/13 It wasn't bad. No strokes of genius but an interesting history. No real flare and a good bit of violence, but I happily got all the way to the end.”kala_way wrote this review Monday, September 23, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Well-written and interesting. It was fascinating to experience the life of early European settlers in Australia and their interactions with the aborigines, it also quite depressing. ”Connie D wrote this review Sunday, March 17, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“I really enjoyed this tale. The colonization of Australia had many similarities to that of America - perhaps that is why we admire our Australian friends so greatly. This is an honest story with a close look at how it was to come from nothing to being on the brink of death to be 'saved' by being sent to a penal colony. Once there, a new beginning was possible. The Thornhills took hold of that new beginning and there are ups and downs along the way. I look forward to reading the rest of the trilogy. ”Melissa M wrote this review Saturday, February 2, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“barbaric moments that were hard to read but we cant keep turning a blind eye to atrocities inflicted on the indigenous people of Australia...faction”Susan Langston wrote this review Sunday, January 27, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“William thornhill was transported to Australia along with his wife and children; story of their hard life there and the fight with the natives culminating in a massacre; eventual success; ”Rita B wrote this review Thursday, January 24, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“C+. Story of the settlement of Australia by convicts. Although I know that the treatment of the Aborigines is most likely true to fact, it became a drudge to read about all the inhumanity, somehow hoping that the main character would rise above it all.”Sharon B wrote this review Saturday, January 12, 2013. ( reply | permalink ) Was this review helpful? Yes | No
“Haunting, sad, exquisitely crafted. Grenville manages to elicit admiration and empathy for the Thornhills, while also recording their fatal legacy for Aboriginal Australians. Her word-smithing is a delight and deceptively simple at times. The Hawesbury region comes to life in all its hot, unyielding glory - a pleasure for someone like me who knows the area.