The Lieutenant

The Lieutenant

3.63 (3,064 ratings by Goodreads)
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As a boy, Daniel Rooke was always an outsider. At school he learned to hide his clever thoughts from his cruel peers; at home his parents were bemused by their bookish son. Daniel could only hope - against all the evidence - that he would one day find his place in life.

By 1788, Daniel has become Lieutenant Rooke, astronomer with the First Fleet as it lands on the unknown shores of New South Wales. As the newcomers struggle to establish a settlement for themselves and their cargo of convicts, and attempts are made to communicate with those who already inhabit this land, Rooke sets up his observatory to chart the stars.

But the place where they have landed will prove far more revelatory than the night sky. Out on his isolated point, Rooke comes to know the local Aboriginal people, and forges a remarkable connection with one child, which will change his life in ways he never imagined.

Based on real events, Kate Grenville's stunning new novel conveys the poignancy and emotional power of an extraordinary friendship, and how through it a man might find himself: a story that resonates across the oceans and across the centuries.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 320 pages
  • 152 x 230 x 28mm | 439.98g
  • Canongate Books Ltd
  • Edinburgh, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Main
  • 1847673449
  • 9781847673442
  • 249,119

Review quote

A deft historical tale of discovery . . . [Dawes'] qualities shine lambently through Grenville's elegantly calibrated prose . . . The lasting impression of her novel is not of drama, but of a lovely, watchful stillness: a sort of astronomy of the human heart -- Jane Shilling * * Sunday Telegraph * * Grenville inhabits characters with a rare completeness . . . the reader shares the excitement of his widening consciousness . . . Grenville writers with a poet's sense of rhythm and imagery . . . [and] explores the natural rifts that arise between settlers and native people with a deep understanding of the ambiguities inherent in such conflicts. She occupies the mind of Rooke with a kind of vivid insistence, and his isolation - and moral dilemmas - become ours. -- Jay Parini * * Guardian * * Grenville's prose is clear and clean, employing a gently leading storytelling style that is especially welcome with a foreign land and a foreign time . . . Grenville has brought imagination and compassion to the source of so much of Australia's retroactive hand-wringing. What distinguishes her portrayal of Aboriginal culture is that or once appreciation, sympathy and admiration get the better of impotent guilt. -- Lionel Shriver * * Daily Telegraph * * Grenville lingers carefully over her exposition of Rooke, setting him up as a singular character. This enhances the drama of the book's later pages, in which his sensibilities are so disastrously different to those of his shipmates. . . . Genuinely affecting, her new novel is another capable tranche of character-based, historical fiction and a worthy foil to its predecessor. -- Melissa McClements * * Financial Times * * A compelling narrative . . . an intelligent, spare, always engrossing imagining of first contact, in which the fictionalization of history allows a comment about current postcolonial race relationships which escapes the didacticism of special pleading. -- Patrick Denman Flanery * * Times Literary Supplement * * Grenville is one of Australia's most popular writers, and this novel is a triumph. Read it at once. * * The Times * * A particular kind of stillness marks Kate Grenville's characters out as uniquely hers . . . Between the words and among them, this is a profoundly uplifting novel - one that leaves you understanding Rooke's premise: that "Truth [needs] hundreds of words, or none." * * Independent * * This engrossing story evokes the excitement of discovery and the beauty of an unspoilt land. -- Anthony Gardner * * Scottish Daily Mail * * Grenville masterfully depicts the brutal simplicity of the early settlers' life in New South Wales . . . through Rooke's peaceable, curious character, the moral tragedy of the Aboriginal compromise and the cowardice of the collective are neatly wrought. Grenville has stuck to what she knows, but she has done it well. -- Renee Rowland * * The Skinny * * A more overtly political book than Grenville's last, but beautifully wrought. * * Psychologies * * In lucid prose and perfectly measured strides, Grenville lays down her riveting tale. A novel aglow with empathy, its author's capacious visions still deliver an elemental thrill. -- Stephanie Cross * * Daily Mail * * This engrossing story evokes the excitement of discovery and the beauty of an unspoilt land. -- Hugh Bonar * * Irish Mail on Sunday * * A captivating portrait of the fledgling relationship between two human beings. -- Alison Grinter * * TNT * * Grenville's novel is much more than just another culture-clash novel. She deftly avoids worthiness by making the idealistic Rooke the heart and soul of her story, making us want to believe that his appreciation of the indigenous Australians will continue and that dark clouds won't gather over this alien paradise. When they do, the novel becomes all the more disquieting, for this story is as much a personal tragedy as it is a cultural one. -- Jonathan Eyers * * Metro * * Fascinating . . . an enchanting, quietly brilliant novel . . . enhanced by Grenville's simple but provocative use of language. -- Sorcha Hamilton * * Irish Times * * This is a brilliantly evocative account of a genuine clash of cultures and the frustrations felt on both sides. * * Good Book Guide * * With the ease of a storyteller at the height of her powers, Kate Grenville presents the life of Daniel Rooke ... In this novel, morally troubling issues of exploitation and hypocrisy carry reverberations well beyond the convincingly portrayed historical moment. -- Katie Owen * * Telegraph Review * *
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About Kate Grenville

Kate Grenville is one of Australia's best-loved authors. Her works of fiction have won numerous awards both in Australia and internationally. THE IDEA OF PERFECTION won the 2001 Orange 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. Kate Grenville lives in Sydney, and maintains a website at
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Rating details

3,064 ratings
3.63 out of 5 stars
5 17% (520)
4 42% (1,297)
3 30% (923)
2 9% (265)
1 2% (59)
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