Tag Archives: historical fiction general fiction

The Secret River by Kate Grenville

Historical Fiction–William Thornhill arrives in the new land in 1806. He is 29 years old.

This is a novel about a white man who decides to make a piece of land his own. This bountiful land has been inhabited for-well, who knows how long- -by the native people.  It has provided them with abundant food and they have thrived in peace. But now the white man has come to rip out the generous trees and vegetation so he can work the earth and plant an English farm.  This could be a story about North America or South America or many others lands but it is a story of Australia.

William Thornhill grew up in the slums of London just barely managing to survive. As his family is on the verge of starvation he decides to turn to crime to fill their bellies. He is caught and sentenced to hang but the sentence is reduced to deportation and he is sent to Penal colony in Australia, along with his wife and child. Eventually he earns his freedom and starts a small business, but the land is always in his mind. His wife just wants to return to London but most of his children have been born in this new land and have no idea about the world left behind.

This is a novel that often appears on the reading lists of book clubs (my library website posts many of these reading lists) and it is understandable since it almost screams for discussion. Thornhill is  man  who has experienced the oppression of the Gentry in England and in Australia.  He has ranted against the class system  and bemoaned the lack of justice. Yet why does he think he can displace the native people? He is complicated and does show some conscience yet he does not interfere when he sees other characters being entirely evil. Is this justifiable because he has a family? And then there is his own evil……..

This is a fascinating novel that will leave the reader with much to think about. It is also a fine adventure story and should appeal to people on many levels.

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Filed under General fiction, historical fiction