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`Read Epub Ø The Secret River ß In The Early Nineteenth Century William Thornhill Is Transported From The Slums Of London To New South Wales For The Term Of His Natural Life He Arrives With His Wife Sal And Their Children In A Harsh Land He Does Not UnderstandEight Years Later, Thornhill Sails Up The Hawkesbury As A Free Man To Claim A Hundred Acres Aboriginal People Already Live On The River And Thornhill Will Soon Have To Make The Most Difficult Decision Of His LifeInspired By Research Into Her Own Family History, Kate Grenville S The Secret River Is A Tour De Force, A Powerful And Groundbreaking Story About Life On The Frontier This book already feels like such a classic to me even though it was published only 11 years ago I have already seen the play and TV series based on it and now finally in reading the book, the story seems an even powerful one of the cultural clash that happened all over Australia with the coming of the white man to this ancient continent and culture Kate Grenville is a very accomplished author and the tells this story of the ignorance and arrogance of the colonialists in invading the land of the traditional owners in simple powerful language The book is beautifully written and the characters strongly depicted Destined to be a classic that all Australians must read. I am an Australian of Anglo Celtic and Northern European background, meaning that my ancestry is English, Cornish, Irish, German and Danish, with a bit of Scottish thrown in for good measure I was born in Sydney, where I still live More than five generations of my ancestors on both sides were born in Australia This takes my roots in the country back to the early 19th century, which in white Australian terms is a long time One of my ancestors was a convict transported from Ireland because he committed a petty theft There s every chance that I have than one convict ancestor My ancestors were not wealthy people They have been farmers and shopkeepers and salespeople and musicians and housepainters My family history attaches me to this place It is in my blood Even though I am resolutely urban in my background and my preferences both my parents, all of my grandparents and most of my great grandparents were born within the ten kilometres or so which separates the centre of Sydney and the beaches in its eastern suburbs I am attached to the Australian landscape The high, bright blue sky, the beaches and the rivers, the scent of gum trees and native flowers and the sound of native birds are all part of me As much as I love travelling and as much as I can appreciate other, softer landscapes, the one which surrounds me is the one which moves me the most For all of these reasons, this is a novel which speaks to me It probably should be compulsory reading for all Australians and certainly for all Australians whose ancestors arrived in colonial times This is their story and it is in many respects an ugly one The central character, William Thornhill, is a boatman on the Thames, who lives in grinding poverty with his wife and child In 1806, having been convicted of a theft committed to feed his family, Thornhill s death sentence is commuted to transportation to the penal colony of New South Wales Over time, Thornhill achieves the status of an emancipated convict and settles on a stretch of land on the Hawkesbury River In this environment, he, his family and other white settlers come into contact with the local indigenous inhabitants The indigenous people have no reason to leave the area just because settlers move in, planting crops and building huts and fences However, the fences cut off their food sources and this makes conflict inevitable Ultimately, Thornhill has to decide what he is prepared to do to keep the land which has become his obsession Fundamentally, the novel is about the Australian colonial experience The title has two meanings To Thornhill, the Hawkesbury River is a secret river because its entrance from the bay into which it feeds is hard to find However, it s also a reference to the phrase used by anthropologist W E H Stanner in a lecture in 1968 when he described the brutal acts of genocide against the indigenous people by British colonisers and the subsequent silence about these events, as the secret river of blood in Australian history The narrative describes some horrific events It also suggests that these events occurred not because evil people wanted to commit unspeakable acts, but because of a total lack of understanding between the white and the indigenous communities These were groups of people not simply separated by language, but by their entire way of life The indigenous people had no concept of private ownership and did not build fences From the point of view of the settlers, this meant that the indigenous people had no relationship with the land Nothing could be further from the truth and the colonisation of this land meant the dispossession of the original inhabitants The effects of this dispossession reverberate than 200 years later Grenville creates a strong sense of time and place While the narrative is exclusively from Thornhill s point of view, she allows the reader to understand how the conflict affected both sides Just as the indigenous people had nowhere to go when their land was taken away from them, poor settlers in the early days most of them, like Thornhill, were emancipated convicts also had nowhere to go They could not return to England and they had to make the best of what they had here For them, making a living from the land was an economic imperative, a matter of life and death for themselves and their families But rather than learn about the land from those who already lived there and who would have been prepared to share it they imposed their ways, with devastating consequences A few days after finishing the novel, I am still haunted by it I can understand that the narrative will not have the same affect on those who are not connected to the history it tells But I feel part of that history and Grenville s work really speaks to me I almost took away a star because of a phrase which was so frequently used that it started to irritate me, but that impulse subsided after I finished reading My lasting impression will be of the atmosphere Grenville created and the insight and sensitivity she demonstrated in telling the story I decided to read the novel now in anticipation of seeing this theatrical adaptation of the novel next month The play has been adapted from the novel by one of my favourite playwrights and will be directed by one of my favourite directors I m looking forward to seeing it than ever.
Yes, this book is admirably researched and yes, the basic premise is interesting But no, it is not particularly absorbing and no, it is not well written I have a particular bias against writers that spend an inordinate amount of time on painstaking read painful descriptions of setting The novel is 334 pages long about 80 per cent of that is taken up with environmental minutiae or at least it felt like it Pages and pages of it then perhaps a couple of lines of dialogue, hidden away in italics as if it were something to be ashamed of The characters mumble their way through the book, and no one has anything of significant interest to say As a protagonist, Will Thornhill is the biggest dumb arse I ve ever had the misfortune to come across Sure, Grenville is probably being ruthlessly true to historical fact colonial Australia was populated by simple minded petty criminals and their ignorance in this exotic setting is not far fetched But that doesn t necessarily make for great fiction and what was needed here was for the main character, at least, to leap frog this cultural intertia and actually LEARN something The ham fisted Thornhill lacks any developent whatsoever he has no real insight and experiences no epiphany By the end of the book, Grenville purports him to be a wealthy landowner, whilst I would have probably placed him into a sheltered workshop But I did at least empathise on one point As I laboured towards the closing pages, I also was than ready for my Ticket of Leave. For years I d wanted to have a go at this, and when Grenville was again nominated for an Australian Prime Minister s Award for the third book in the trilogy Sarah Thornhill of which this novel is the first, I finally decided to begin at the beginning This novel was a finalist for the Man Booker Prize in 2006, and won numerous other awards when it came out, for good reason It is old time storytelling, whose characters who begin life poor and grubby on the streets of London early in the nineteenth century, get sent down to Australia in a convict ship, earn their freedom, and scratch out an existence in that unholy land.Grenville s descriptions of early nineteenth century London evoke a world crammed with humanity living cheek by jowl on crooked cobbled streets, cold and grimy with coal dust Grenville contrasts this with the dry heat of Australia, blazing with sun, and the wide open, unsettled and unsettling bigness of it The Australian Aborigine is caught to perfection in her words the thinness, the looseness of limbs, the blackness, the brows, the teeth, the joy, the dignity and fierceness Her language is Dickensian, her story that of Australia.Parts of this book are difficult to read, they seem so cruel That man is a fearful and fearsome creature, we know It is just painful to see ourselves through that glass so darkly reflected I can hardly recommend this title enough I have loved the writing of Kate Grenville forever, it seems She has the potential for greatness, and while some of her books may not quite reach that level, this one does I listened to this book on Blackstone Audio, narrated by the excellent Simon Vance.For those who come away from this book with that breathless sense of needing to know how she did that, she has written a memoir about writing the novel called Searching For The Secret River A Writing Memoir I believe it took her as long to come down from writing it as it will take us to absorb it I look forward to enjoying her skills again.