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.
"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)
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