The Secret River

The Secret River

Book rating: 05 Paperback

By (author) Kate Grenville, Introduction by Diana Athill

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  • Publisher: Canongate Books Ltd
  • Format: Paperback | 352 pages
  • Dimensions: 128mm x 194mm x 28mm | 240g
  • Publication date: 5 May 2011
  • Publication City/Country: Edinburgh
  • ISBN 10: 0857860844
  • ISBN 13: 9780857860842
  • Edition statement: Main
  • Illustrations note: map
  • Sales rank: 814

Product description

London, 1806 - William Thornhill, happily wedded to his childhood sweetheart Sal, is a waterman on the River Thames. Life is tough but bearable until William makes a mistake, a bad mistake for which he and his family are made to pay dearly. His sentence: to be transported to New South Wales for the term of his natural life. Soon Thornhill, a man no better or worse than most, has to make the most difficult decision of his life ...The Secret River is a universal and timeless story of love, identity and belonging.

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Author information

Kate Grenville is one of Australia's best-loved authors. Her works of fiction have won numerous awards both in Australia and internationally. Her works of fiction have won numerous awards both in Australia and internationally. The Idea of Perfection won the 2001 Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction and became a long-running bestseller. In 2006 The Secret River won the Commonwealth Writers' Prize and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Searching For The Secret River, the story behind this novel, is also available from Canongate, alongside her first novel, Lilian's Story, and The Lieutenant. Kate Grenville lives in Sydney.

Customer reviews

By Marianne Vincent 24 Jun 2012 5

The Secret River is the first in the Thornhill family series by Kate Grenville. It tells the story of William Thornhill and his wife Sarah (Sal) from their childhood together in London, through William's career as a Waterman, his eventual transportation to New South Wales and the life his family made for themselves in the harsh landscape of 19th century Australia. Grenville's thorough research is apparent in the level of detail about everyday life in the new colony, detail that gives the reader a good idea of how life was for the early settlers. Grenville's beautiful prose captures well the characters' hard life and their fleeting glimpses of happiness, as well as the timeless landscape of the Australian continent. The settlers' ignorance of the indigenous population's philosophy and lifestyle becomes clear as the story progresses and the white man's attitude to the blacks is skilfully rendered with a violent climax. In order that he and his family survive, William Thornhill finds himself not only turning a blind eye to injustices, but eventually taking part in atrocities he never dreamed he would encounter. A moving and powerful read.

Review quote

'In one stroke the author captures both Sullivan's emotional dependence and Will's compassion. Will's relationship with Sal is frequently fortified by such psychological insights. Their mutual awareness gives the couple a convincing weight as well as engaging the reader's sympathy and deepening the narrative tension. By this stage, what started as a sumptuous historical with its brilliantly atmospheric depiction of Georgian London's Stygian gloom, has developed into a profound journey of self discovery.' Independent on Sunday