Shortlisted for the NSW, QLD and WA Premiers' Literary Awards, The Lieutenant is the profoundly moving tale of a young soldier's arrival in Australia on the First Fleet and the extraordinary friendship he develops with the local Aboriginal people.
Daniel Rooke, soldier and astronomer, arrives in NSW in 1788. He sets up his observatory away from the main camp to begin the scientific work that he hopes will make him famous.
Aboriginal people soon start to visit his isolated promontory, and a child named Tagaran begins to teach him her language. A genuine friendship forms, and Rooke has almost forgotten he is a soldier when a man is fatally wounded in the fledgling colony. The lieutenant faces a decision that will define the course of his entire life.
In this profoundly moving novel Kate Grenville returns to the landscape of her much-loved bestseller The Secret River. Inspired by the notebooks of William Dawes, The Lieutenant is a compelling story about friendship and self-discovery by a writer at the peak of her powers.
'The Lieutenant…has a potency and beauty that lingers in both the heart and mind's eye… an Australian novel that visits a part of Australian black-white history and finds a true heart of goodness there.' Sunday Telegraph
Grenville (The Secret River) delivers another vivid novel about the British colonization of Australia, this one a delightful fictionalization of the life of William Dawes, a soldier-scholar who sailed from England in 1788 with the first fleet to transport British prisoners to New South Wales. Dawes's stand-in is Daniel Rooke, a loner with a passion for mathematics and astronomy who makes a living as a marine. He joins the expedition with the hope of tracking a comet that will not be visible from Great Britain, building a makeshift hut and observatory separate from the settlement (largely so he can avoid his prison guard duties). Although food is insufficient and the marines are outnumbered by the convicts, there is little unrest, but while Daniel shifts his ambitions from identifying previously unnamed stars to discovering a language and culture unknown in England, tensions escalate between the newcomers and the Aborigines, forcing Daniel to choose between duty to his king and loyalty to a land and people he has come to love. Grenville's storytelling shines: the backdrop is lush and Daniel is a wonderful creation a conflicted, curious and endearing eccentric.
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A work of quality
This novel is slow at the start, lacking a sense of an authentic voice. As the novel progresses, the plot becomes riveting and the character development keeps the reader in suspense. At times the author seems to present a shallow leftwing revisionist ‘black armband’ history, yet the novel stands as a work of fiction in its own right, steering away from a more polemic course.
A wonderful understated depiction of early colonial life in Australia. Kate Grenville captures the essence of both hope and opportunity lost in the detail of her characters both Aboriginal and white. They are poignant and deeply human. I loved this as much as the Secret River and Sarah Thornhill.