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Publisher's Summary

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. Eight years later Thornhill sails up the Hawkesbury to claim 100 acres for himself.
Aboriginal people already live on that river. And other recent arrivals - Thomas Blackwood, Smasher Sullivan, and Mrs Herring - are finding their own ways to respond to them. Thornhill, a man neither better nor worse than most, soon has to make the most difficult choice of his life.
©2005 Kate Grenville (P)2005 Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Producer: Heather Steen.
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Critic Reviews

"The Secret River is a powerful, highly credible account of how a limited man of good instincts becomes involved in enormity and atrocity. It is, at one remove, a sane and moving allegory of Australian development. It has quiet drama and drama of the hectic ghastly breakneck kind. It would make a fine film. It has the subtlety of being a sort of Swiss Family Robinson saga about the Australian dream. In historical terms it dramatises the settler's dream and it all but climaxes in its representation of the Australian nightmare. Then there is calm and sadness and the colour drained from the dream. The Secret River is a historical novel, full of contemporary insight and it is also a subtle expression in fictional terms of the myth of collective guilt for the fate of the Aborigines. It is to Kate Grenville's credit that she never surrenders her sense of the individual faces she captures as she tells this story. I suspect a lot of [listeners] are going to find this book both subtle and satisfying." (The Age)
"One of the most entertaining, accomplished, engaging novels written in this country." (The Courier Mail)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By henhao on 03-01-16

Powerful yet heartbreaking. An absolute must for every Australian

This is a powerful yet tragic tale and an absolute must-read for every Australian. Heartbreakingly informative about the colonisation/invasion of this land, both sides desperate for the other to move on. We recently saw the production on stage in Brisbane - again, a must-see if you have the chance. I also recommend watching Stan Grant's speech delivered in January 2016.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful


By Emrys on 07-25-17

Vivid, well-told, life-story novel

I found this to be a very good conventional novel, strong all round and entertaining. It tells the story of a poor boy from London ho ends up seeking his fortune in Australia. The dialogue is excellent, and the narrator is superb.

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By Kindle Customer Mrs L on 05-20-17

Thrilling, tender, harsh

I can see why Australian friends of mine have read this book several times. It is a compelling story of early convict settlers, a story of survival and love and has become one of my all time favourites. It is read brilliantly and the bars of music that separate the parts is perfect. You HAVE to listen to this book.

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Customer Reviews

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By Margaret on 10-10-16

Wonderful vivid story telling!

Beautifully written and evocative Grenville has imagined us into the past. If you fancy a visit to early nineteenth century London, the penal colony of New South Wales and wondered what it must have been like to be a convict, an early settler on the Hawksbury River and whatever happened to the indigenous Australians who had lived there for many thousands of years; read this book! Sympathetic, complex and courageous writing. Highly recommended.

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1 of 1 people found this review helpful


By Lesley on 06-29-16

Absolutely enthralling.

Fantastic narration. A captivating story which explores a brutal new world that is colonial Australia.

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