Deb's Reviews > The Secret River

The Secret River by Kate Grenville
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's review
Dec 27, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: favorites, aussie-authors
Read from December 20 to 28, 2010 — I own a copy

** spoiler alert ** Kate Grenville tells the story of a Thames lighterman who is caught stealing and condemned to transportation to Australia for the term of his natural life. We follow our "hero", Will Thornhill, from the slums of London to the penal colony in Sydney and watch as he creates a new life for himself and his family on the other side of the world.

Her assessment of man's ability to abandon his morals and tread on those below him in order to make his own way up the ladder rings so true it is disturbing. The meeting of cultures - British colonial and Australian indigenous - is simply portrayed. Will cannot understand them - why don't they work to earn their keep and yet remain better fed than the struggling emancipists? Long Jack, the aborigine, does not understand Will and his compatriots. Why would you pull up food plants that grow naturally along the river, to replace them with corn that requires long hours of weeding and watering to successfully come to harvest once a year?

Grenville's writing is superb in places as she conjures up the otherworldliness of the Australian landscape when seen through the eyes of a Londoner, and describes his growing love for his new home. She effortlessly evokes the natural beauty and underlying danger of the beautiful Hawkesbury river with its towering cliffs and powerful tidal rips. This one may well become a classic of Australian literature.

This was a enjoyable read, but leaves the reader wondering whether it would have been possible to find another way to live harmoniously with this new land and its people. How much we could have learned....

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Reading Progress

12/26/2010 page 225

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