Winner of the Commonwealth Writers Prize and Australian Book Industry Awards, Book of the Year.
After a childhood of poverty and petty crime in the slums of London, William Thornhill is 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. As Thornhill stakes his claim on a patch of ground by the Hawkesbury River, the battle lines between the old and new inhabitants are drawn.
Inspired by research into her own family history, Kate Grenville vividly creates the reality of settler life, its longings, dangers and dilemmas. The Secret River is a groundbreaking story about identity, belonging and ownership.
'There is no doubt Grenville is one of our greatest writers … A book everyone should read. It is evocative, gracefully written, terrible and confronting. And it has resonance for every Australian.' Sunday Mail
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.
Customer ReviewsSee All
The Secret River
Must read for all Australians
Fascinating look into Australia's early history. Perspective changing read- really opened my eyes to the clash of cultures and why the early settlers were the way they were and why the Aboriginals did what they did.
The Secret River
A fascinating historical novel. A must for anyone who loves the Hawkesbury and dreams of a 'dream time'.