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)

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  3,752 ratings  ·  474 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
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 3.64  · 
Rating details
 ·  3,752 ratings  ·  474 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Lieutenant
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.

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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
luci whitelake
Dec 17, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: school, worst-books
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.
Roger Brunyate
May 07, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, australia-nz
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
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.
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
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
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.
Annette Chidzey
May 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes when you are required to read a novel, it's appeal is never quite the same compared to if you opt to do so by choice. Pleasingly this was not my experience in tackling Kate Grenville's 'The Lieutenant'.
Daniel Rooke is an intriguing protagonist that we first meet as a five year old boy in 1767 and whom we last see in his final years in Antigua in 1836. Much of the focus centres on his experiences between 5 and 30 as both a young boy and young man.
While we journey with him as he moves
Jan 03, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fitting book to have read at the start of a new year. Fictionalised account loosely based on true story. Having read Watkin Tench’s account of life in the first settlement and story of William Dawes, I could see the similarities. This was my first audiobook and in a way, glad I stuck with it because I don’t know if I would have finished it if I had read it. However it’s a book that makes you think long and hard about people and situations that start to make you question the status quo, look at ...more
Megan Watson
Jul 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: australian
A work of fiction but based on accounts and note books of real life William Dawes who was an astronomer on the first fleet and had a friendship with a young Aboriginal girl.
We hear so many dark and awful true stories about white settlement in Australia, the arrogance and disrespect shown by white to black that it's nice to read an historical account that tells a different story.
This book is not without it's dark moments but it was a revelation to me to read about a man that was eager to learn
Kerran Olson
Oct 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017-challenge
4.5/5* I loved this book so much! I loved the character of Daniel Rooke, and it was interesting to read in the authors notes that he was inspired by William Dawes, who I am now keen to read more about. The progression of Dan as he began to find his place in NSW and establish friendships with the "natives" was just so heartwarming, and I was heartbroken for him when he was ordered to go on that trip (without giving away spoilers, his response was so fitting to his character it made me love him ...more
Jan 16, 2018 rated it liked it
This was very slow going. Tagaran and Daniel’s relationship was kinda uncomfortable. Especially when she was wet and naked and he puts a blanket on her. But I suppose it was something different, certainly not my preferred type of book.
Aug 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully written story of astronomer-soldier Daniel Rooke in early days of European settlement Sydney Cove. Set 40 years before The Secret River? Putuwa: to warm one's hands by the fire and then to squeeze gently the fingers of another person.
Marianne Hawthorne
I really enjoyed this book. Whilst it is a work of fiction, it is inspired by true events, and gives a fascinating insight into the life as part of the first fleet to Australia, and the early relations with indigenous communities. Also touches on subject matter of language, astronomy and relationships
« 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

  • The Longest Memory
  • Nine Days
  • The Golden Age
  • The Land Before Avocado
  • Ransom
  • Black Diggers
  • The Weekend
  • The Woman in the Green Dress
  • Australia Day
  • After Darkness
  • Room for a Stranger
  • Summer At Mount Hope
  • Leap
  • Reckoning: A Memoir
  • The Gathering
  • The Arsonist: A Mind on Fire
  • The Sparkle Pages
  • The Sound of One Hand Clapping
See similar books…
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 ...more

Other books in the series

Thornhill Family (3 books)
  • The Secret River
  • Sarah Thornhill
“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…