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Sarah Thornhill

(Thornhill Family #3)

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  3,041 ratings  ·  319 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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Average rating 3.84  · 
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Dec 26, 2012 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
H.A. Leuschel
Mar 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the sequel to 'The secret river' and it is worth reading the first book in order to appreciate this one fully. Sarah Thornhill is a willful and strong character and it was moving to see her evolve in a colonists' family who struggle to hide the atrocities perpetrated on the natives in the past as well their inadequate, ambiguous and racist attitude towards them during Sarah's upbringing and coming of age. Through the eyes of this young woman, the life of colonialists in Australia come vi ...more
A meaningful story of how we carry the history of our forefathers with us, of shame and hidden crimes, of truth setting one free, of courage to live your life as honestly as you can. This book was hard to put down. What a great read.
Karen Charlton
Jul 29, 2012 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
Sue Gerhardt Griffiths
Aug 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
Is there anything finer than reading Australian Historical Fiction? To gain an understanding of what life was like for the convicts, the appalling treatment of the aborigines, the British colonization of New South Wales and the colonization of Australia involves reading books such as these, tragic but crucial. I can’t get enough of these types of books and I read them with gusto. My fascination with the history of early Australia became an interest of mine when I first read Patricia Shaw’s histo ...more
Sep 03, 2011 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
Mar 14, 2014 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 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
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
Kate Grenville knows how to write a page turner and this wasn't a disappointing end to the trilogy in that respect. It goes over the same ground as before in respect of the colonists' appalling treatment of the aborigines, except this time the Maoris are included. We can't have too many reminders of the indignities and wrongs that were visited upon these people. It would have been 4 stars but I thought the ending was completely ridiculous, unbelievable and frankly just plain stupid. The book is ...more
Mar 22, 2012 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 d
Sep 30, 2012 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
Sam Woodfield
Aug 19, 2012 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
Liza Perrat
Apr 24, 2012 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 ☔
Jan 23, 2012 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
Wendy Feltham
Sep 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
The history of Australia seems just as brutal and complex as the history of the USA. Kate Grenville and Peter Carey are my favorite Australian authors of historical fiction because they create living, breathing characters who confront issues of violence and racism in memorable stories. Kate Grenville has written a trilogy about the early development of Eastern Australia. I admired her writing about the founding of Sydney as a penal colony in The Lieutenant, and then about the cultural clashes be ...more
Jun 06, 2012 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
Jun 27, 2012 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
Oct 18, 2011 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. ...more
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
Sarah Thornhill is...fine, I guess. It’s not as cinematic and daring as The Secret River, or as introspective and focused as The Lieutenant. In fact, I found it kind of vague, more interested in the romantic aspects of the plot than the themes of race relations and colonialism. The last fifty pages are reminiscent of the power that the first two books have, but I don't think they're worth having to get through the first 250 pages. I also hated the fact that this was written in first person; the ...more
Like The Lieutenant , this novel was not as brutal or expansive as The Secret River ; it had more of a feeling of a 'love story' than the first two books of the trilogy. However, I was left in no doubt as to why Kate Grenville wrote this story - to illustrate that what is written about the past can also be about the present and its unfinished business. (p. 307) This is an important book about the history of colonial Australia and the mistakes made at the time in regard to the treatment of ...more
I don't think this grabbed me with quite the same power as The Secret River, nor nearly as much as Lilian's Story or Dark Places.

It felt quite gentle, despite quite violent content. But Grenville writes very well about women, they have depth of mind, body and soul. They stand up from the page and demand you listen to what they have to say.
Christine Dobson
Dec 15, 2020 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Another beautifully written novel by Kate Grenville. I've read the three books classified as a trilogy that surround the Thornhill family of the Hawkesbury.

Kate captures Sarah's colonial voice in a way thats different but familiar and I came to admire Sarah, her resilience and strength throughout the novel.

The New Zealand link was an interesting one, that, although integral to the story, could be a questionable inclusion when so much of the trilogy surrounds the relationship with Australia and
Jennifer (JC-S)
Sep 08, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommended to Jennifer (JC-S) by:
I read it last September, and am rereading it for book group.

'Nothing ever gone, just you got to know where to look.’

Sarah is the youngest child of William Thornhill, the figure at the centre of ‘The Secret River’. William was a transported convict, now ‘an old colonist’ who has a family, land along the magnificent Hawkesbury River, and money. No-one had settled this land before William, but even so, when he surveys his estate (on the last page of ‘The Secret River’): ‘He would not understand wh
Jan 21, 2015 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
Oct 07, 2012 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
Banafsheh Serov
Oct 10, 2011 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
Annabel Smith
Mar 28, 2012 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
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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

Other books in the series

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

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