A best seller in Australia, The Secret River is the dramatic story of Grenville's ancestors, who wrested a new life from the alien terrain of Australia and its native people.
©2005 Kate Grenville; (P)2006 Blackstone Audio Inc.
"Grenville earns her praise, presenting the settler-aboriginal conflict with equanimity and understanding. Grenville's story illuminates a lesser-known part of history, at least to American readers, with sharp prose and a vivid frontier family." (Publishers Weekly)
"Grenville writes lyrically, especially in her description of the Australian landscape, while her gift for the telling phrase, one that conveys a paragraph of description in a few words, enlivens an essentially dark narrative. Plotting and characterization are so skillful that the book's tragic climax seems inevitable." (Booklist)
An unforgettable and disturbing novel. Many reviewers here and elsewhere rightly note that The Secret River is about the white settlement of Australia--but it is so much more. There's a terrible irony in the fact that men like William Thornhill, a struggling London Waterman convicted of theft but transported instead of hanged, saw the "new" continent as a place where they could escape the dehumanization of class and poverty, yet they became the very monsters from which they had gladly fled. Initially, Thornhill is an empathetic character, a man just trying to do a little better for his wife and children. It's his craving for property, a tract of land to work and to call his own, that leads to his personal success--and to his personal tragedy. By putting his insatiable desire for the land ahead of his marriage, his children, his common sense, and even his conscience, Thornhill becomes the empty shell of a man, and we are left to ask whether the individual or the rigid class/wealth structure that is to blame. Is it personal greed or the effects of an environment in which possessing property is viewed as the only mark of a successful man? Just when Thornhill seems finally to have it all, we're left to ask if he really has anything at all.
Grenville does a splendid job of recreating the atmosphere of, first, Victorian London, and, later, the colonial towns and bush settlements of Australia. Her characters (at least the main ones) are complex and believable; and even the lesser characters are well drawn. There are scenes in the book that will haunt and disturb you and others that will just leave you shaking your head. Overall, an engaging novel, well worth reading.
The book itself was wonderful, beautifully written, and completely engaging -5 stars. The reader did a fine job with the narrative parts - 5 stars also. Unfortunately, the Monty Pythonesque falsetto the reader used for women and children's voices was extremely annoying to me, and detracted severely. Every time a woman or child spoke, it was like fingernails on a chalkboard. Once I got used to it, it wasn't quite so bad and the book was compelling enough to listen though that. But I won't get a book with this reader again.
This was really a wonderful listen. The book plays with the idea of class and what people will do to rise. In this case, the main character, William Thornhill, is London's lowest of the low. But when he is sent as a convict to Australia, he discovers a class of people even lower than he is - "blacks," the aboriginal people. Through really complex characters and a well-developed story line, Grenville looks at what one man is willing to sacrifice to climb the social ladder - a question she is asking of Australia as a whole. In Thornhill's case, the price is high - very high - and the payoff not as sweet as he thought. I loved this book, especially Simon Vance's narration - he is just excellent and really brings to life every story he reads. Now, on to download "Sarah Thornhill," a continuation of the Thornhill family's story.
This was a book club selection. Not everyone could get through the middle /grim section. I recommend it on audio.
Yes, in fact thinking about downloading "In Search of Perfection".
His accent brought the story to life.
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