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Sarah Thornhill (Thornhill Family #3)

3.74  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,630 Ratings  ·  240 Reviews
In the final book of a trilogy that began with her bestselling novel, "The Secret River," Commonwealth Prize-winner Kate Grenville returns to the youngest daughter of the Thornhills and her quest to uncover, at her peril, the family's hidden legacy.
Sarah is the youngest child of William Thornhill, the pioneer at the center of "The Secret River." Unknown to her, her father
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published August 29th 2011 by Penguin (first published 2011)
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All That I Am by Anna FunderSarah Thornhill by Kate GrenvilleFoal's Bread by Gillian MearsAutumn Laing by Alex MillerForecast by Janette Turner Hospital
Prime Minister's Fiction shortlist 2012
2nd out of 5 books — 5 voters
A Town Like Alice by Nevil ShuteThe Thorn Birds by Colleen McCulloughIn a Sunburned Country by Bill BrysonPicnic at Hanging Rock by Joan LindsayOn the Beach by Nevil Shute
Books Set in Australia
73rd out of 527 books — 155 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,870)
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Aug 12, 2013 Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This is the third novel of Grenville’s trilogy set in the colony of New South Wales and links directly back to the first of those novels, The Secret River. Sarah Thornhill is the narrator. The youngest daughter of the wealthy emancipated convict William Thornhill, she had not been born when her father participated in a massacre of local indigenous people near their settlement on the Hawkesbury River. Ignorant of her father’s past, Sarah falls in love with her brother’s friend, Jack Langland, the
Sep 03, 2011 Lisa rated it liked it
Shelves: australia
No doubt it will come as a strange observation to make about an experienced author’s work, and it’s not the way I expected to respond to a book by one of my all-time favourite novelists, but Kate Grenville’s latest book, Sarah Thornhill, reads a bit like a debut novel. It comes with too strong a sense of a writer needing to get something off her chest, and the plot goes quite awry, especially at the end.

So what went wrong?

Well, firstly, there is much that went right. I read this novel straight t
Karen Charlton
Aug 02, 2012 Karen Charlton rated it it was ok
I have been a huge fan of Kate Grenville’s ‘The Secret River’ for years, and I was really looking forward to reading more about the Thornhill family. However, I have to confess that that I was very disappointed with ‘Sarah Thornhill.’

In my opinion, the better story would have been that of the adopted Maori granddaughter who was brought to the Thornhill household. Yet, Rachel is never anything more than a token character in the book and I got the sense that Grenville took the easy way out by focu
May 02, 2014 Cherie rated it really liked it
I absolutely love how Kate Grenville can describe a scene and paint a picture with words that make me want to read it over and over to commit it to memory. Maybe it is just me, but I can feel the heat bouncing off the rocks and the dry wind fluttering the leaves on the trees:

“Along from the house was a piece of rising ground, grass and scattered trees, and at the top a cluster of boulders, one just the right shape for your backside. When the day’s work was done I’d walk up and take a breather.

May 02, 2012 Gwendolyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sarah Thornhill is a satisfying ending to Kate Grenville's trilogy about the colonization of Australia by British prisoners. The story began in The Secret River (short-listed for the Booker Prize) with William Thornhill's deportation to New South Wales and continued in The Lieutenant with Daniel Rooke's quest to understand the foreign land he is ordered to colonize and civilize. Sarah Thornhill returns to the Thornhill family, now a prosperous family with little connection to their crude beginni ...more
3.5 stars for this from me. I enjoyed it, the third in the trilogy that started with The Secret River and followed on with lives of the Thornhill family and the interaction between white settlers and native Australians. It suffered a little by being the next book I read after an exceptionally well-crafted book so I took a little while longer than normal to drum up much interest in it, but once I did, I wanted to keep reading to know what happened.

Interestingly enough, one of the themes in the bo
Apr 29, 2012 Melissa rated it it was ok

Kate, we need to have a chat. 'The Secret River' ignited my interest in Australian colonialism. Never thought I'd say those words, well done Ms Grenville.

The Secret River captured me with the onslaught of terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad deeds. Black and white, you spared no details; I was transfixed. Flies in the eyes and sand in my teeth, I ate up your every word. Awkward wrongings, cultures clashing, stories told.
I couldn't wait for your next book to come out, 'Sarah Thornhill'. Oh de
Oct 18, 2012 Carol rated it it was ok
I loved Kate Grenville's "The Secret River," "The Lieutenant," and "The Idea of Perfection." I was anxious to read this one because it was the last of a trilogy beginning with "The Secret River." However, from the first page, I was disappointed. Where was the beautiful prose I so loved in Kate Grenville's other books? This was a book of half-formed sentences with no notable prose at all. Her other books made me want to BE there, STAY there; this book made me want to LEAVE.

It's difficult to belie
Dale Harcombe
Four and a half stars. I can’t believe it has taken me this long to read a book by Kate Grenville, except for her Writing book. I now feel I have been missing out. Even though I hadn’t read The Secret River it didn’t matter a bit as far as understanding the story and the characters of this one.
The writing is beautiful and the setting is evocatively conveyed. From the opening description of the Hawkesbury I loved this story, told in the voice of the uneducated Sarah Thornhill, otherwise known as
Sam Woodfield
Aug 28, 2012 Sam Woodfield rated it it was ok
This final novel in the trilogy by Kate Grenville follows Sarah Thornhill, the youngest member of the Thornhill family. Sarah, or Dolly as she is known to her family, is the daughter of an ex-convivt who has made a life for himself in the new territory in Australia. Sarah falls in love with a local boy who has a white father and native black mother, but a family secret kept quiet by the Thornhills for years will tear apart their relationship, and affect the course of Sarahs life forever, leaving ...more
Jun 11, 2012 Laura rated it it was amazing
A sequel to The Secret River, Kate Grenville's Sarah Thornhill continues the Thornhill family's saga through a second
generation, when the murderous rampage Sarah Thornhill's father secretly participated in against the Australian Aborigines comes to haunt the young woman's life in several unexpected ways. Kate Grenville is a remarkable author with a very distinctive voice for her Australian characters. Her characters are complex and rich, and the stories she tells about their lives are utterly co
Aug 14, 2011 KateFromAllGoodBookStore rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: book clubs, readers of Secret River and those who like Australian Historical Literature
A beautiful and sensitively told story from one of Australia's greatest writing talents. Set 15 years after the events of "Secret River", Thomas Thornhill's youngest daughter Sarah is now grown up and unaware of her family's terrible secret. First love, the death of a sibling and the catastrophic repercussions of both shake Sarah to her core.

The narrative style of this book just grabbed me and I polished it off in a single night. An absolute must read (even if you haven't read "Secret River") a
Jun 27, 2012 Sue rated it it was ok
Quite a disappointment compared to the 2 previous books in this loose trilogy "The Secret River" and "The Lieutenant", both of which I found masterly, restrained and moving. It reads more like a moderately well-written colonial romance. It lacks the presence and stories of the indigenous people who made the earlier works come to life. See also the comparison with "That Deadman Dance" which may have spoiled alternative versions of such stories for me. Have I also bought into the criticism that wh ...more
Mar 15, 2012 Paquita rated it it was ok
Easy enough read. Kept me in but only just. I can't believe I've just finished it, as it was kind of like 'so that's it'?! I didn't enjoy it nearly as much as The Secret River. Sarah's life story didn't really enthrall me and I kept wondering why she made the choices she did. Like the ending which I thought was an unnecessary risk.
Banafsheh Serov
Jan 31, 2012 Banafsheh Serov rated it it was amazing
Sarah Thornhill completes a loose trilogy which includes the highly acclaimed The Secret River and The Lieutenant. While there are romantic elements, they are weighed by remorse and guilt for atrocities committed against Aborigines during colonisation.

Sarah, the daughter of William Thornhill, is independent, resourceful, feisty, and in love. Told through her eyes, the novel is narrated as it might be thought or spoken, in bits of sentences. Though illiterate, Sarah is sensitive and highly observ
Oct 09, 2011 Jen rated it it was amazing
I loved this sequel to The secret river. It tells the story of the youngest Thornhill, Sarah, who falls in love with Jack Langlands, a half white and half aboriginal sealer. They have an understanding that they are meant for each other. This is overturned when Sarah's brother Will is drowned in New Zealand, leaving a young daughter. Sarah's father presuades Jack to bring the girl back to live with his family. When she arrives, however, she cannot settle into the house and Sarah's promise to look ...more
Annabel Smith
Mar 28, 2012 Annabel Smith rated it really liked it
Shelves: australian
The youngest child of a man who was once a convict but is now a landowner, the title character grows up in a life of relative privilege. “Blacks” are at the edges of her world but their way of life is largely unknown to her, and she makes no connection between that world and the man she falls in love with, Jack Langland, the son of her father’s friend. But Jack’s mother was indigenous, and eventually Sarah realises that he will never be truly accepted in her world.

The novel is a coming-of-age s
Liza Perrat
Feb 23, 2013 Liza Perrat rated it really liked it
As she did in the first book of this trilogy - The Secret River - Kate Grenville delves into her family history to recreate the past in Sarah Thornhill. Sarah is the youngest child of William Thornhill, the central character in The Secret River, who was shipped to Australia as a convict and eventually made a decent life for his family.
Sarah grows up in ignorant bliss of the troubles that took place between her father and the local Aboriginals, her eyes firmly set on the handsome Jack Langland.
Diane S ☔
Apr 12, 2012 Diane S ☔ rated it really liked it
The white colonists have pushed the original Aborigines to the fringes of society, poor and begging for food and clothing. We first meet Sarah Thornhill as a young girl, her father an ex-convict turned colonist and landowner and the amazing thing about this novel is that the words and what she feels is that of a young girl. As a teenager, the dialog and observations mature somewhat, and she falls in love with her brothers friend and seal hunting partner, but a boy who her stepmother does not con ...more
Oct 07, 2012 CuteBadger rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sarah Thornhill grows up in the primitive Australia of the early 19th century and knows the family history of how her father was transported from England, but is now doing well and considered respectable. But there are family secrets which she cannot understand and which threaten the love she has for Jack Langland, a friend of her brother's. The past is not always content to stay where it is and sometimes changes how the future turns out.

This is the third in Kate Grenville's trilogy, which start
Mar 19, 2014 RoughDraftHero rated it did not like it
What the hell? What. The. Hell???

(view spoiler)
Kate Loveday
Apr 23, 2012 Kate Loveday rated it really liked it
This book is the sequel to ‘The Secret River’. Sarah Thornhill is the daughter of William Thornhill, once a convict but now an ‘old colonist’, as those who have become free and have prospered in Australia are now called. Sarah grows up in the fine house William has built with his new wealth and lives a happy childhood. She and her siblings have always been friends with Jack Langland, the half-aboriginal son of a neighbor. Jack has been is treated no differently by the William and his snobbish se ...more
Jun 19, 2012 Stephanie rated it really liked it
Shelves: june, 2012
I had not read the other two in the trilogy, and yet found myself still so taken with Sarah and the quiet determination she shows throughout the story. This is her story, and stands well on its own. She is a wonderful character, and the story so wonderfully spare and melancholy. I was both motivated to read more about the time in Australian history as portrayed here, as well as to pick up the other titles. Compared with the richness and complexity often seen in historical fiction, this might see ...more
Jan 25, 2016 Julie added it
This sequel is told from the perspective of Sarah, the youngest child of Sal and William . By this time, William’s wife Sal has reportedly passed away when Sal was a young child. William remarries a woman, called Mrs Langland. She liked to lord it over everyone and kept high standards in the home.
As a young child around the age of 7-8, Sarah is attracted to her older brother (William’s) friend Jack. It turns out that Jack is a half caste but Sarah isn’t aware of this for a long time.
Much of the
Jul 01, 2015 Alison rated it liked it
I loved the Secret River and was looking forward to continuing the story, unfortunately this book didn't quite deliver, it lacked the punch of the previous books. The story starts off well enough, the characters are strong, but it just seems to lose its way somehow. There was too much emphasis on Sarah's attempts to attone for her father's wrongs. The story had built up beautifully to the point where Sarah meets her estranged brother and discovers her father's dark past, then it seems to rush al ...more
Jan 21, 2015 Michael rated it really liked it
The story of Sarah Thornhill is told to us by herself, in the first person, and is a continuation, of sorts, from the story begun in The Secret River. As in that novel Grenville looks at Australia's past and tries to unravel the complexities of a society that started out by being a penal colony, a place where the British could dump their unwanted.
But the secondary task of these convicts was to colonise this vast continent for the British Empire and as home had ceased to be England (very few actu
Marguerite Kaye
Feb 09, 2014 Marguerite Kaye rated it really liked it
I'd read the first in this trilogy, though I didn't actually realise it was part of a series when I bought it, and it really didn't matter.

Beautifully written and evocative, this book really brought to life the early days of settlers in New South Wales. The descriptions of the landscape are amazing, so rich you felt you were on the river sometimes, and fuzzy with damp heat.

Told in the first person, it's the story of Sarah (obviously) youngest daughter of a 'broad arrow' - ex-con - who has made
May 14, 2016 Marwa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A beautiful story about life, love and loss. It's part of a trilogy but can be read as a standalone. I loved reading about life in the 18th century Australia.

However, I felt like I couldn't focus on the story which is why it took me around 2 weeks to complete it. Also, there were a few times when I didn't know if a character was talking at if the author was describing something since there were no quotation marks distinguishing the text. Overall, I am glad I have read this novel.
Alison Giles
Mar 26, 2016 Alison Giles rated it liked it
Yes, I have the same arguments to those given here with a similar rating. It took me several goes to get going, it just didn't quite grab me. The language was difficult and I think it is that which has also put readers off. It's certainly not easy to write in dialogue, and I commend Grenville for doing her research here and doing a remarkable job, yet it does make it difficult to read, simply because we don't speak like that any more. Similarly, with Carey's The Kelly Gang, it's a brave move, a ...more
Sep 28, 2011 Laura rated it it was amazing
Another excellent read from one of Australia's greatest literary authors. Like all of Grenville's books, this is extremely well written and thoroughly engaging from start to finish. Along with "The Secret River" and "The Lieutenant", this title forms a loose historical trilogy set in the days of early Australian settlement. Told through the eyes of Sarah Thornhill, daughter of William Thornhill (from The Secret River), this is a fascinating story of love, friendship and conflict.
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Kate Grenville is one of Australia's best-known authors. She's published eight books of fiction and four books about the writing process. Her best-known works are the international best-seller The Secret River, The Idea of Perfection, The Lieutenant and Lilian's Story (details about all Kate Grenville's books are elsewhere on this site). Her novels have won many awards both in Australia and the UK ...more
More about Kate Grenville...

Other Books in the Series

Thornhill Family (3 books)
  • The Secret River
  • The Lieutenant

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