Sara's Reviews > The Secret River

The Secret River by Kate Grenville
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's review
Aug 22, 2011

it was amazing

Whenever I’m in London I am always captivated by the sense that I am walking through history, that each grandiose building or cobbled alleyway holds a host of hidden stories – some completely lost, others glimpsed through tiny carvings, or street names, or, if you’re really lucky, commemorative plaques. So I loved reading long-ago London brought back to life so vividly. The book is also a stark reminder of the timeless horrors of being poor, and the desperation that often led the destitute to lives of crime. William Thornhill and his family came alive to me from the first page to the last. Kate Grenville absolutely inhabits these characters, and makes it look effortless – a master’s trick, which actually belies an incredible amount of hard work.

Once the story moved to Australia, Grenville’s writing adjusts seamlessly. The story made my senses come alive to the descriptions of the Australian bush. Once Grenville moves on to describing the settlers’ contact with the local Indigenous people, the simple scenes and actions of the characters are pared back to allow the reader to experience for themselves the fear and suspicion, the miscommunications, and the resulting horrors. Thornhill’s thoughts and decisions were frustrating, at times horrifying, but believable. It might be a fictional story but it points to a number of confronting truths.

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