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The secret river / Kate Grenville.

By: Grenville, Kate, 1950- [author.].
Material type: materialTypeLabelBookPublisher: Melbourne : Text Publishing, 2005Description: 334 pages : maps ; 25 cm.Content type: text Media type: unmediated Carrier type: volumeISBN: 1920885757; 1921145250 (pbk.).Subject(s): Prisoners -- Australia -- New South Wales -- Fiction | Australian fiction | Prisoners -- Fiction | Family life and relationships -- Fiction | Squatter settlements -- Australia -- Fiction | Prisoners -- Australia -- Fiction | Penal colonies -- Fiction | New South Wales -- History -- 19th century -- Fiction | Aboriginal Australians -- Fiction | Australia -- History -- 19th century -- Fiction | New South Wales (Australia) -- History -- Fiction | New South Wales (Australia) -- History -- 1788-1851 -- Fiction | Australia -- History -- Fiction | New South Wales (Australia) -- History -- 19th century -- Fiction | Hawkesbury River Region (N.S.W.) -- History -- Fiction | Australia -- FictionGenre/Form: Historical fiction. | Australian fiction.
Contents:
First published: 2005. -Winner of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize. -William Thornhill along with his wife Sal and their children arrive in the harsh land of New South Wales. It is the year 1806 and William has been transported for the term of his natural life. Eight years later William and his family lay claim to a hundred acres up the Hawkesbury. Aboriginal people already live there and other newly arrived settlers are finding their own ways to respond to them. William finds he soon has to make a very difficult choice that will affect his life.
Subject: 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, and eight years later, Thornhill sails up the Hawkesbury to claim a hundred acres for himself.
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

After a childhood of poverty and petty crime in the slums of London, William Thornhill is sentenced in 1806 to be transported to New South Wales for the term of his natural life. With his wife Sal and children in tow, he arrives in a harsh land that feels at first like a death sentence. But among the convicts there is a whisper that freedom can be bought, an opportunity to start afresh.

Away from the infant township of Sydney, up the Hawkesbury River, Thornhill encounters men who have tried to do just that- Blackwood, who is attempting to reconcile himself with the place and its people, and Smasher Williams, whose fear of this alien world turns into brutal depravity towards it. As Thornhill and his family stake their claim on a patch of ground by the river, the battle lines between old and new inhabitants are drawn.

The Secret River joins a tradition of grand historical fiction that stretches from Thomas Keneally's The Chant of Jimmy Blacksmith and Peter Carey's True History of the Kelly Gang .

Maps on end papers.

First published: 2005. -Winner of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize. -William Thornhill along with his wife Sal and their children arrive in the harsh land of New South Wales. It is the year 1806 and William has been transported for the term of his natural life. Eight years later William and his family lay claim to a hundred acres up the Hawkesbury. Aboriginal people already live there and other newly arrived settlers are finding their own ways to respond to them. William finds he soon has to make a very difficult choice that will affect his life.

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, and eight years later, Thornhill sails up the Hawkesbury to claim a hundred acres for himself.

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Reviews provided by Syndetics

Library Journal Review

In this follow-up to her Orange Prize-winning The Idea of Perfection, Australian writer Grenville turns to her own family history for inspiration. To depict the settling of her native land, Grenville focuses on William Thornhill, an illiterate bargeman driven to steal to survive hard times in London. When his death sentence is commuted to extradition to New South Wales (which would later become Australia), Thornhill and his growing family again find themselves struggling to make ends meet. When Thornhill tries to pull himself up in the world by laying claim to a plot of land along the Hawkesbury River, he finds himself at war with the native people. The narrative offers a fascinating look at the uneasy coexistence between the settlers and the aborigines, as well as at the internal pressures of a marriage where husband and wife nurture contradictory dreams. Thornhill and his wife, Sal, are interesting and complex characters, and the story builds in intensity toward an inevitable climax. Recommended for all libraries.-Evelyn Beck, Piedmont Technical Coll., Greenwood, SC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Review

Grenville's Australian bestseller, which won the Orange Prize, is an eye-opening tale of the settlement of New South Wales by a population of exiled British criminals. Research into her own ancestry informs Grenville's work, the chronicle of fictional husband, father and petty thief William Thornhill and his path from poverty to prison, then freedom. Crime is a way of life for Thornhill growing up in the slums of London at the turn of the 19th century-until he's caught stealing lumber. Luckily for him, a life sentence in the penal colony of New South Wales saves him from the gallows. With his wife, Sal, and a growing flock of children, Thornhill journeys to the colony and a convict's life of servitude. Gradually working his way through the system, Thornhill becomes a free man with his own claim to the savage land. But as he transforms himself into a trader on the river, Thornhill realizes that the British are not the first to make New South Wales their home. A delicate coexistence with the native population dissolves into violence, and here 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. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Adult/High School-William Thornhill, a boatman in pre-Victorian London, escapes the harsh circumstances of his lower-class, hard-scrabble life and ends up a prosperous, albeit somehow unsatisfied, settler in Australia. After being caught stealing, he is sentenced to death; the sentence is commuted to transportation to Australia with his pregnant wife. Readers are filled with a sense of foreboding that turns out to be well founded. Life is difficult, but through hard work and initiative the Thornhills slowly get ahead. During his sentence, William has made his living hauling goods on the Hawkesbury River and thirsting after a piece of virgin soil that he regularly passes. Once he gains his freedom, his family moves onto the land, raises another rude hut, and plants corn. The small band of Aborigines camping nearby seems mildly threatening: William cannot communicate with them; they lead leisurely hunter/gatherer lives that contrast with his farming labor; and they appear and disappear eerily. They are also masterful spearmen, and Thornhill cannot even shoot a gun accurately. Other settlers on the river want to eliminate the Aborigines. The culture clash becomes violent, with the protagonist unwillingly drawn in. The characters are sympathetically and colorfully depicted, and the experiencing of circumstances beyond any single person's control is beautifully shown.-Judy McAloon, Potomac Library, Prince William County, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

Grenville, author of the Orange Award winner The Idea of Perfection(2002), tells a story rooted in her family's Australian past. In the early 1800s, William Thornhill is sentenced to death for stealing a shipload of expensive woods. Offered an alternative, he chooses transportation to New South Wales, Australia. Six sections describe Thornhill's progress from convict laborer to landowner, conveying the broader history of Australian colonization through the experience of one convict family. Grenville embodies in her characters the cruelties elicited by the clash of British and native Australian cultures and the savagery with which these differences played out. Plotting and characterization are so skillful that the book's tragic climax seems inevitable. 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. In addition to lovers of Grenville's prose, this accomplished novel will appeal to fans of Thomas Keneally, Brooks Hansen, and Thomas Flanagan. --Ellen Loughran Copyright 2006 Booklist

Kirkus Book Review

A riveting narrative unfolds into a chilling allegory of the mechanics and the psychology of colonialism in the veteran Australian author's rich historical novel. In a follow-up to her Orange Prize-winning The Idea of Perfection (2002), Grenville reaches back to Australia's origins, in an expansive tale similar in plot and theme to Patrick White's 1976 masterpiece, A Fringe of Leaves. It's the story of William Thornhill, a London bargeman who turns to petty crime after an impoverished childhood and when marriage and paternity severely test his survival skills. Sentenced to death for theft (he stole a load of wood), he receives a commutation of his sentence thanks to the emotional importunings of his devoted wife Sal, and when he is "transported" to New South Wales as a convict laborer, William's family dutifully accompanies him. Australia beckons as a land of opportunity, though the hamlet of Sydney is at this time (1806) little more than a cluster of crude huts. William adapts to this strange new environment, following the examples of other convicts and fortune-hunters, and stakes out a parcel of land (shaped, with fine symbolic irony, like a man's thumb), grandly naming it Thornhill's Point. Then things begin unraveling. Native aborigines who already inhabit the land, and to whom the concept of ownership is utterly alien, are initially passive, then resentful, eventually confrontational. Misunderstandings crop up and multiply, and subsequent actions lead to a horrific massacre--in which William grimly, reluctantly participates. His "triumph" is plaintively contrasted to the stoical endurance of the aborigine Jack, the lone survivor of the massacre, who possesses a primal connection to the land and its spirit that William's act of "ownership" can never displace. No fingers are pointed: We understand only too well what brought these people together and then thrust them apart, and the story's resolution achieves genuine tragic grandeur. Grenville's best, and a giant leap forward. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.