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The Sydney Theatre Company is currently staging a play based on this classic Australian drama.
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 a hundred 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.
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 brilliantly written book, a groundbreaking story about identity, belonging and ownership.
‘Fabulous historical fiction.’
‘A few sentences of Grenville’s makes one realize that much of the writing one encounters in a novel these days is thin and perfunctory. Reading The Secret River may put you off anything less accomplished for a while.’
‘One of the most entertaining, accomplished, engaging novels written in this country…We always knew Kate Grenville was good but this one is brilliant.’
‘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.’
‘A powerful, highly credible account of how a limited man of good instincts becomes involved in enormity and atrocity.’
‘Kate Grenville’s The Secret River stands out as a work of sustained power and imagination, of poetry and insight. No truer piece of fiction has been written about the Australian past.’
‘Splendidly paced, passionate and disturbing.’
‘An outstanding study of cultures in collision…chilling, meticulous account of the sorrows and evils of colonialism.’
‘A vivid and moving protrayal of poverty, struggle and the search for peace.’
‘Grenville’s magnificent novel [is] an unflinching exploration of modern Australia’s origins.’
‘The Secret River is a masterwork, a book that transcends historical fiction and becomes something deeply contemporary and pressing.’
‘Grenville’s powerful telling of this story is so moving, so exciting, that you’re barely aware of how heavy and profound its meaning is until you reach the end in a moment of stunned sadness.’