Friday, December 10, 2010

The Secret River and The Lieutenant

Two reviews for the price of one today. However both are by the same author, and are part of a loose trilogy, so it makes some sense!

The Secret River, Kate Grenville

Thanks to Jean's recommendation, I had this one on my planned reading list a few months ago, and like Jean I loved the descriptions of London and Sydney in the early 1800s. I really enjoy reading about that time in history - 1st fleet, long sea voyages, convicts and I love imagining what Sydney Cove would have been like in its early days of settlement.

William Thornhill, from the poverty and theft of London, is transported (with his wife Sal and their children) to the colony of New South Wales. However, within years he is a free man and claims land for himself on the Hawkesbury River. Their relationship with the native Aboriginal people is tenuous and eventually he must choose whether they are friend or foe.

It's a fascinating account of what life would have been like, and the choices one had to make.

The Lieutenant, Kate Grenville

Having so enjoyed The Secret River, a quick online search revealed she has written quite a few novels, and The Lieutenant was the next obvious choice as it was based around the same time and also in the colony of New South Wales.

This is a much gentler story. Daniel Rooke, a soldier and astronomer with a brilliant mind, arrives on the First Fleet and establishes himself away from the main settlement. He forms a close friendship with the local Aboriginal people, particularly a young girl names Tagaran and she begins to teach him her language.

However, as expected, tensions loom between the new settlers and the local people, and Rooke must choose whether to follow King and Country or his own moral compass.

Apparently this novel is quite closely based on William Dawes and his notes from these times.

Two good books with good insights into our early history.

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