Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Lieutenant” as Want to Read:
The Lieutenant
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Lieutenant

(Thornhill Family #2)

3.66  ·  Rating details ·  4,400 ratings  ·  534 reviews
In 1788 Daniel Rooke sets out on a journey that will change the course of his life. As a lieutenant in the First Fleet, he lands on the wild and unknown shores of New South Wales. There he sets up an observatory to chart the stars. But this country will prove far more revelatory than the stars above.

Based on real events, The Lieutenant tells the unforgettable story of Rook
Paperback, 307 pages
Published April 1st 2010 by Canongate Books (first published December 31st 2007)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Lieutenant, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Joanne Not at all. This one is a sequel in terms of the time period and the themes, not the main story or characters

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.66  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,400 ratings  ·  534 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Lieutenant
Edgarr Alien Pooh
Two books ago I declared that I am not one for historic fiction but I did enjoy Joanne Harris' Holy Fools. Now, two books later, I have just finished The Lieutenant and WOW!!

This book is based on true events but reads fluently as a novel, not a historic text. The story follows a young Lieutenant, Rooke, as he makes his way to New South Wales (Australia) in the 1780s. Initially, his role is part of the military accompanying a fleet of convicts sent to the new land to begin a new settlement. Upon
Daniel Rooke was five years old when it was confirmed to him how different he was from his peers. His love of numbers set him apart, made him a person to tease and ridicule, and this was his life until in 1775 and at thirteen, he met Dr Vickery who was a kindred spirit. His love of astronomy lit a passion and enthusiasm which would last Rooke his lifetime.

As a lieutenant who narrowly avoided death during the war, Daniel was assigned to the First Fleet which arrived in New South Wales in 1788. Th

In this novel, Kate Grenville returns to the time and place which inspired her in The Secret River: the early days of the British colony in New South Wales. This time her central character, Daniel Rooke, is based on Lieutenant William Dawes, the First Fleet’s astronomer, who was also a skilled linguist, engineer and surveyor.

Grenville portrays Rooke as a brilliant but shy and socially awkward man: a mathematician, musician, linguist and astronomer, who becomes friends with a young girl from the
Mar 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I expected a dry, factual story. That is what all of the reviews I read seemed to indicate.

How wrong this was. It was not dry, but it was not the snappy, fast paced stories that we are all used to reading these days. There was no danger or supprise waiting around every corner.

Facts, facts are sometimes dry and slow. An introduction into the word of a young boy and what he saw and how he felt in a world that he did not seem to fit into at all is what I saw and read. It was told as simply as it h
Loved it. I knew it was based on a real story, but I didn't realise it was so closely based that it was really a fictional biography - the real story with the blanks filled in. Only the names were changed to protect, etc.

But limiting a review to such an offhand summary would be to sell Grenville short, and she is much too valuable a literary asset to do that. She certainly did more than fill the blanks.

She has dramatised a remarkable set of real circumstances - a sensitive young man who comes o
Lyn Elliott
I have read a considerable amount of Australian history over the years and though The Lieutenant is at least part invention, this fictionalised story has had a more powerful effect on me than has reading the more dispassionate histories.

I approached ‘The Lieutenant with a sense of foreboding, knowing that its theme of first contacts between English settlers and Aboriginal people in Sydney must deal with cruelty, violence and dispossession.

Kate Grenville has managed, however, to write about th
The Lieutenant is about Daniel Rooke and his self-discovery of who he is. Lieutenant Daniel Rooke arrived in Australia in 1788 on the first fleet. Lieutenant Daniel Rooke never felt in belong in the marines, so he wandered away from camp and set up an observatory and in the proceeds befriended an aboriginal woman called Tagaran. The readers of The Lieutenant will continue to follow this blossoming friendship between Tagaran and Lieutenant Daniel Rooke to see what happens.

I did enjoy reading The
luci whitelake
Boys born after 1788 don’t know how to decolonise. All they know is love astronomy, “not understand racism”, eat morsel of bread ration and lie.

1.5/5 stars for Ms Grenville and her 302 pages of white guilt.
Ana Ovejero
This novel narrates the story of Daniel Rooke. At the beginning, it displays Daniel's interest in astronomy and the sciences. As he grows up, he enters the navy in order to travel and to be able to work as an astronomer.

In 1778, he sets out in a journey that is going to change the History of the world. He is a lieutenant in the first fleet that is taking prisoners and is going to establish a colony in New South Wales.

Having a letter of recomendation by the Royal Astronomer, he is allowed to set
A really lovely, satisfying read. Similar in many ways to The Secret River but, for me, so much better. Although Grenville's writing sometimes seems simplistic due to her very measured way of writing, if you take the time to think about the words and phrases on the page, the depth and beauty of her descriptions of people, places, and the natural world, are achingly poignant. I suppose that's why I don't listen to audiobooks.

The timeless message of the book is that to stand by and watch whilst ot
H.A. Leuschel
Feb 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is inspired by recorded documents of William Dawes' travels, a lieutenant who was on board the First Fleet of convicts that were brought from England to Australia in 1788. Although the author makes extensive use of historical records, the story is a fictional imagining about how this young scholar learned to love the new land and to engage with the local natives. He becomes so attached to them that he finds himself questioning his own culture and purpose of settlement. He realizes that ...more
Mar 18, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kate Grenville's latest book tells the story of Daniel Rooke, an astronomer with the First Fleet sent from England to bring convicts to Botany Bay and his interaction with the aboriginal people, and in particular with a young girl called Tagaran. It's based on the historical account of William Dawes, lieutenant and astronomer with that first expedition who had a similar friendship with a young aboriginal girl.

The character of Daniel Rooke is powerfully conceived and his story is immensely human
Felicity Terry
Not a book I enjoyed. Personally I longed for this to be more of a 'human interest story' about relationships and less of a story, no matter how interesting, about astronomy and Daniel's unravelling of the native language.

Sectioned into what was effectively three parts I really struggled with the first part which dealt mainly with Daniel's childhood in England as it felt as if I wasn't reading a story so much as reading a list of notes the author had jotted down to remind herself of where she in
Dec 31, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
This is about the opening up of the convict settlements of Australia. It follows the life of a young lieutenant who is actually involved with astronomical studies. He is a good linguist and becomes involved with local aborigines - as the relationship between the English and the Aborigines deteriorates he finds himself unable to please both sides.

This is well-written as all Kate Grenville books are and although it is a stand-alone story it continues with the theme of Australian history that she h
Aug 17, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kate Grenville's The Secret River is one of my all-time favorite books, not only for the plot and the characters, but for Grenville's complete mastery over the English language. She knows how to wield it and wind it and make it magical. Part of the excitement of opening a new book, for me, is in the hope of discovering an author like Grenville, who can take my breath away with her writing.

The Lieutenant centers around the same theme as The Secret River- the colonization of Australia by the Briti
Sep 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: five-star-rated

Kate Grenville based her novel on the life of a real Marine officer, William Dawes, who laid the foundation for learning the Aboriginal language - his studies were the most comprehensive at the time, and his notes show the friendly relationship he had with a native girl. Dawes later fought for abolition of slavery in Antigua and died in poverty. Grenville writes this novel about him - as Daniel Rooke - with great affection, and subtlety.

This is a beautiful novel - sensitive, learned and heartbr
rachid  idjiou
Apr 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Kate Grenville is a wonderful writer, one of Australia's best authors, I enjoyed reading this novel they spoke about obstacles to be a scientist in the 18th century,
Daniel Rooke was a quite clever child, he studied Astronomy at Portsmouth Naval Academy, he spoke 5 languages, English, French, Greek, Latin and German . It was difficult to be a scientist in the 18th century, Dr Vickery had explained to him that the world didn't need Astronomers, he couldn't spend his life waiting for some other man
Joanne Osborne
Mar 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book fascinating in that I’m assuming it is based on some historical truth.. the language barriers between the early settlers and the aboriginals and in particular the main character who had knowledge in linguistics and was able to communicate and write down words as he came into contact with the aboriginal peoples. Communication is so important in understanding...The story around this was brutal and true...
Jan 15, 2018 rated it liked it
Was ok. Start was slow & boring, it ramped up and got easier to read towards the middle, but nearing the end I got bored again
Audiobook. Slow beginning and I almost gave up. Redeemed itself at the end.
Dec 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Overall, it was a 'meh' read. It's not bad as a historical fiction, in terms of getting certain events right, but I guess that my problem is the portrayal of the cast of characters' life made it seem easy. I don't hate the book, but it's not my favourite. I didn't have high expectations for it anyways. I didn't know what I was expecting either way so... it was alright. ...more
Roger Brunyate
May 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: australia-nz, history
A Universe of Impossibility

Kate Grenville has a genius for placing her readers at the heart of a moral dilemma and making us feel it as though it were our own. Unbearably, it is a context whose outcome we already know, where good decisions are virtually impossible; even the most sympathetic characters will be forced by the tide of history to make, or at least condone, decisions that they feel to be morally wrong. In her magnificent previous novel, The Secret River, Grenville fictionalized the li
Aug 18, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
switterbug (Betsey)
In late 18th century England, Daniel Rooke is a marine lieutenant who reluctantly goes to war for the Crown in the American Revolution. He was always a square peg, bullied by other boys in his youth. A generally solitary person, he studies math and music and gazes at the stars. His true calling is astronomy and linguistics, not fighting. Physically toughened by the violence he witnesses in the war, he continues to remain an outsider to the status quo. He seeks knowledge, unity, and connectedness ...more
May 20, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aww14, re-read
The Lieutenant of the title is Daniel Rooke. The character is based on Sydney's first astronomer and meteorologist, William Dawes, after whom Dawes Point is named. Dawes is less well known for his meticulous recording of the language of the indigenous people displaced by first settlement.

The novel offers so much pleasure and interest: the history of the early colony including first contact with the indigenous people; descriptions of a landscape being newly learnt by European eyes; and the sensi
James Perkins
The story is about an astronomer who comes to Australia on the First Fleet in 1788 and develops a human rather than antagonistic relationship with the indigenous inhabitants.

I wanted to like this book, but the prose was dull and did not engage my literary muscle. The scenes between the soldiers did not come across as genuine, particularly the disciplinary speeches of the officers; the author is obviously lacking experience in the armed forces. Grenville also indulged in that perennial habit of m
Jane Milton
Jul 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Protagonist Daniel Rooke, ‘an astronomer of the fairest promise’- modelled on real life Lieutenant William Dawes- is an amazing character and
Grenville’s story is a page turner, that’s for sure. She captures the life of a man who thought himself weak and insignificant under the stars, a mere speck in the universe- but who was in fact a thoughtful humanitarian at a time when it would almost seem to us now that bloodthirsty headhunters may have been more common...
I particularly love the detail ab
Mar 06, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I am so conflicted over this book. I was intrigued by its premise -- the outsider who yearns to become an insider (with the native people of Australia). The decoding of the natives' language was fascinating. I think part of what spoiled it was that I knew the British officers would be brutal and that there was no happy ending. Some of the characters were predictable, and I think that, too, made me less than thrilled by the book. In short a great idea but not a great execution. And I found the en ...more
Apr 03, 2015 rated it liked it
3.5 stars.
I enjoyed this novel quite a lot.
The main character was interesting to learn about and his interactions with the Indigenous tribe there was fascinating.
The plot was pretty placid and not a lot happened as it focused a lot on the main character himself and his relationships.
I loved this take on history and the characters within Grenville's novels so far seem to be complex which I also really liked as well.
I recommend this one as well if you're interested in Australian history.
Mrs B
Nov 04, 2018 rated it it was ok
Having read the intelligent and thoughtful book The Secret River, I was hoping this follow-up would be similarly tense and resonant. I was disappointed to find that The Lieutenant was not all at like that: a simple tale of an astronomer who ultimately joins the First Fleet and befriends the natives, enabling him to compile an English-Aboriginal dictionary. Protagonist Rooke has two emotions only: bafflement and empathy. His groping to make sense of the world, gazing at the stars for inspiration, ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Understanding language 1 7 Oct 15, 2014 08:44AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Nine Days
  • The Dictionary of Lost Words
  • Bruny
  • Ransom
  • All Our Shimmering Skies
  • Elizabeth Macarthur: A Life at the Edge of the World
  • The Yield
  • Honeybee
  • Infinite Splendours
  • The Dickens Boy
  • The Inheritors
  • Letters from Berlin
  • Wolfe Island
  • The High Road: What Australia can learn from New Zealand (Quarterly Essay #80)
  • Trust (Martin Scarsden, #3)
  • Life after Truth
  • Swallow the Air
  • Flesh Wounds
See similar books…
See top shelves…
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
  • Sarah Thornhill

Related Articles

Kazuo Ishiguro insists he’s an optimist about technology.  “I'm not one of these people who thinks it's going to come and destroy us,” he...
396 likes · 37 comments
“Everything in his life had come down to the sensation of her fingers against his. The person he was, the history he carried within himself, every joy and grief he had ever experienced, slipped way like an irrelevant garment. He was nothing but skin, speaking to another skin, and between the skins there was no need to find any words.” 7 likes
“What an astonishing thing, that her praise filled his heart.” 5 likes
More quotes…