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Publisher's Summary

In 1806 William Thornhill, a man of quick temper and deep feelings, is transported from the slums of London to New South Wales for the term of his natural life. With his wife, Sal, and their children he arrives in a harsh land he cannot understand. But the colony can turn a convict into a free man. Eight years later Thornhill sails up the Hawkesbury to claim 100 acres for himself.

Aboriginal people already live on that river. And other recent arrivals - Thomas Blackwood, Smasher Sullivan, and Mrs Herring - are finding their own ways to respond to them. Thornhill, a man neither better nor worse than most, soon has to make the most difficult choice of his life.

©2005 Kate Grenville (P)2005 Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Producer: Heather Steen.

Critic Reviews

"The Secret River is a powerful, highly credible account of how a limited man of good instincts becomes involved in enormity and atrocity. It is, at one remove, a sane and moving allegory of Australian development. It has quiet drama and drama of the hectic ghastly breakneck kind. It would make a fine film. It has the subtlety of being a sort of Swiss Family Robinson saga about the Australian dream. In historical terms it dramatises the settler's dream and it all but climaxes in its representation of the Australian nightmare. Then there is calm and sadness and the colour drained from the dream. The Secret River is a historical novel, full of contemporary insight and it is also a subtle expression in fictional terms of the myth of collective guilt for the fate of the Aborigines. It is to Kate Grenville's credit that she never surrenders her sense of the individual faces she captures as she tells this story. I suspect a lot of [listeners] are going to find this book both subtle and satisfying." (The Age)
"One of the most entertaining, accomplished, engaging novels written in this country." (The Courier Mail)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Powerful yet heartbreaking. An absolute must for every Australian

This is a powerful yet tragic tale and an absolute must-read for every Australian. Heartbreakingly informative about the colonisation/invasion of this land, both sides desperate for the other to move on. We recently saw the production on stage in Brisbane - again, a must-see if you have the chance. I also recommend watching Stan Grant's speech delivered in January 2016.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Emrys
  • Alfred, NY, United States
  • 07-25-17

Vivid, well-told, life-story novel

I found this to be a very good conventional novel, strong all round and entertaining. It tells the story of a poor boy from London ho ends up seeking his fortune in Australia. The dialogue is excellent, and the narrator is superb.

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  • Tracey
  • craigmore, Australia
  • 09-22-15

it should stay secret

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

someone that likes a boring flat narrator and a rubbish storyline

What was most disappointing about Kate Grenville’s story?

it is the worst portrail of convict settelment that didn,t get to shack up with wife and kids when first transported

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Paul Blackwell?

i don,t think you could narrate this story better

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Secret River?

the start and didn,t get past first chapters

1 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • Kindle Customer Mrs L
  • 05-20-17

Thrilling, tender, harsh

I can see why Australian friends of mine have read this book several times. It is a compelling story of early convict settlers, a story of survival and love and has become one of my all time favourites. It is read brilliantly and the bars of music that separate the parts is perfect. You HAVE to listen to this book.

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  • Margaret
  • 10-10-16

Wonderful vivid story telling!

Beautifully written and evocative Grenville has imagined us into the past. If you fancy a visit to early nineteenth century London, the penal colony of New South Wales and wondered what it must have been like to be a convict, an early settler on the Hawksbury River and whatever happened to the indigenous Australians who had lived there for many thousands of years; read this book! Sympathetic, complex and courageous writing. Highly recommended.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Lesley
  • 06-29-16

Absolutely enthralling.

Fantastic narration. A captivating story which explores a brutal new world that is colonial Australia.

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  • Helen Esdaile
  • 05-13-16

Beautifully written and read

Where does The Secret River rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

This is up there with the best

Which character – as performed by Paul Blackwell – was your favourite?

I liked all the characters. Paul made them believable. His early settler accents were wonderful.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

As an Australian it made me feel horrified at the treatment of Aboriginal Australians by not only the Government of the day but by the populace. Heart wrenching stuff.

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  • Mrs
  • 12-15-15

Superb book, beautifully read.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable book. The narration is excellent and the book itself is moving, revealing and a explores a crucial and devastating part off Australia's history.