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The Secret River : Secret River Trilogy Series : Book 1 - Kate Grenville

The Secret River

Secret River Trilogy Series : Book 1


Published: 10th April 2007
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RRP $28.00

The Orange Prize-winning author Kate Grenville recalls her family's history in an astounding novel about the pioneers of New South Wales. Already a best seller in Australia, The Secret River is the story of Grenville's ancestors, who wrested a new life from the alien terrain of Australia and its native people. London, 1806.

William Thornhill, a Thames bargeman, is deported to the New South Wales colony in what would become Australia. In this new world of convicts and charlatans, Thornhill tries to pull his family into a position of power and comfort. When he rounds a bend in the Hawkesbury River and sees a gentle slope of land, he becomes determined to make the place his own. But, as uninhabited as the island appears, Australia is full of native people, and they do not take kindly to Thornhill's theft of their home.

The Secret River is the tale of Thornhill's deep love for his small corner of the new world, and his slow realization that if he wants to settle there, he must ally himself with the most despicable of the white settlers, and to keep his family safe, he must permit terrifying cruelty to come to innocent people.

About the Author

Kate Grenville was born in Sydney and holds degrees from Sydney University and the University of Colorado. In 1984 her first book, a collection of stories - Bearded Ladies - was published. Since then she has published six novels and four books about the writing process. Her works of fiction have been published to acclaim in Australia and overseas and have won state and national awards and her books about the writing process are used in many writing courses in schools and universities. Much-loved novels such as Lilian's Story (1985), Dark Places (1995) and Joan Makes History (1988) have become classics, admired by critics and general readers alike. The Secret River (2005) has won many prizes, including the Commonwealth Prize for Literature and the Christina Stead Prize, and has been an international best-seller. The Idea of Perfection (2000) won the Orange Prize. Kate Grenville lives in Sydney with her family.


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The Secret River

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Australia's past revealed

By infomaniac

from country NSW

About Me Bookworm

Verified Buyer


  • An engrossing saga
  • Captures Time And Place
  • Educational
  • History brought to life
  • Interesting Characters
  • Original Story
  • Well Written


    Best Uses

    • Gift
    • Older Readers
    • Travel Reading

    Comments about The Secret River:

    I read this book whilst holidaying on the Hawkesbury and it brought the river's past to life. I could almost see the traders' boats and smoke curling from campfires....I was at a loss when finished and look forward to the sequels.

    I loved the story but the format was lacking. The cover was extremely flimsy (soft)- if I'd have known this I would have selected a different copy from the site.

    Service and delivery comments:

    Delivery was prompt and goods arrived in excellent condition

    I would prefer to know exact format of book- size, sort of paperback cover, font size.

    Comment on this review

    "Magnificent . . . Grenville's psychological acuity, and the sheer gorgeousness of her descriptions of the territory being fought over, pulls us ever deeper into a time when one community's opportunity spelled another's doom." --"The New Yorker"

    "Unforgettable...A masterwork." -"Chicago Tribune"

    "Grenville [writes] with such inventive energy, descriptive verve and genuine love of revitalizing history that you'll bite the hand that tries to haul you away from this book...[it] is fabulous historical fiction." -"The Australian"

    Chapter One

    The Alexander, with its cargo of convicts, had bucked over the face of the ocean for
    the better part of a year. Now it had fetched up at the end of the earth. There was no lock
    on the door of the hut where William Thornhill, transported for the term of his natural life
    in the Year of Our Lord eighteen hundred and six, was passing his first night in His
    Majesty's penal colony of New South Wales. There was hardly a door, barely a wall:
    only a flap of bark, a screen of sticks and mud. There was no need of lock, of door, of
    wall: this was a prison whose bars were ten thousand miles of water.

    Thornhill's wife was sleeping sweet and peaceful against him, her hand still
    entwined in his. The child and the baby were asleep too, curled up together. Only
    Thornhill could not bring himself to close his eyes on this foreign darkness. Through the
    doorway of the hut he could feel the night, huge and damp, flowing in and bringing with
    it the sounds of its own life: tickings and creakings, small private rustlings, and beyond
    that the soughing of the forest, mile after mile.

    When he got up and stepped out through the doorway there was no cry, no guard:
    only the living night. The air moved around him, full of rich dank smells. Trees stood tall
    over him. A breeze shivered through the leaves, thendied, and left only the vast fact of
    the forest.

    He was nothing more than a flea on the side of some enormous quiet creature.

    Down the hill the settlement was hidden by the darkness. A dog barked in a tired way
    and stopped. From the bay where the Alexander was anchored there was a sense of
    restless water shifting in its bed of land and swelling up against the shore.

    Above him in the sky was a thin moon and a scatter of stars as meaningless as spilt
    rice. There was no Pole Star, a friend to guide him on the Thames, no Bear that he had
    known all his life: only this blaze, unreadable, indifferent.
    All the many months in the Alexander, lying in the hammock which was all the territory he could claim in the world, listening to the sea slap against the side of the ship
    and trying to hear the voices of his own wife, his own children, in the noise from the women's quarters, he had been comforted by telling over the bends of his own Thames.
    The Isle of Dogs, the deep eddying pool of Rotherhithe, the sudden twist of the sky as the river swung around the corner to Lambeth: they were all as intimate to him as breathing.
    Daniel Ellison grunted in his hammock beside him, fighting even in his sleep, the women were silent beyond their bulkhead, and still in the eye of his mind he rounded bend after
    bend of that river.
    Now, standing in the great sighing lung of this other place and feeling the dirt chill under his feet, he knew that life was gone. He might as well have swung at the end of the
    rope they had measured for him. This was a place, like death, from which men did not return. It was a sharp stab like a splinter under a nail: the pain of loss. He would die here
    under these alien stars, his bones rot in this cold earth.
    He had not cried, not for thirty years, not since he was a hungry child too young to know that crying did not fill your belly.
    But now his throat was thickening, a press of despair behind his eyes forcing warm
    tears down his cheeks.
    There were things worse than dying: life had taught him that. Being here in New South Wales might be one of them.
    It seemed at first to be the tears welling, the way the darkness moved in front of him.
    It took a moment to understand that the stirring was a human, as black as the air itself. His skin swallowed the light and made him not quite real, something only imagined. His
    eyes were set so deeply into the skull that they were invisible, each in its cave of bone. The rock of his face shaped itself around the big mouth, the imposing nose, the folds of
    his cheeks. Without surprise, as though he were dreaming, Thornhill saw the scars drawn on the man's chest, each a neat line raised and twisted, living against the skin.
    He took a step towards Thornhill so that the parched starlight from the sky fell on his
    shoulders. He wore his nakedness like a cloak. Upright in his hand, the spear was part of him, an extension of his arm.
    Clothed as he was, Thornhill felt skinless as a maggot. The spear was tall and
    serious. To have evaded death at the end of the rope, only to go like this, his skin punctured and blood spilled beneath these chilly stars! And behind him, hardly hidden by
    that flap of bark, were those soft parcels of flesh: his wife and children.
    Anger, that old familiar friend, came to his side. Damn your eyes be off, he shouted. Go to the devil! After so long as a felon, hunched under the threat of the lash, he felt
    himself expanding back into his full size. His voice was rough, full of power, his anger a solid warmth inside him.
    He took a threatening step forward. Could make out chips of sharp stone in the end
    of the spear. It would not go through a man neat as a needle. It would rip its way in. Pulling it out would rip all over again. The thought fanned his rage. Be off! Empty though
    it was, he raised his hand against the man.
    The mouth of the black man began to move itself around sounds. As he spoke he gestured with the spear so it came and went in the darkness. They were close enough to
    In the fluid rush of speech Thornhill suddenly heard words. Be off, the man was shouting. Be off! It was his own tone exactly.
    This was a kind of madness, as if a dog were to bark in English.
    Be off, be off! He was close enough now that he could see the man's eyes catching
    the light under their heavy brows, and the straight angry line of his mouth. His own words had all dried up, but he stood his ground.
    He had died once, in a manner of speaking. He could die again. He had been stripped
    of everything already: he had only the dirt under his bare feet, his small grip on this unknown place. He had nothing but that, and those helpless sleeping humans in the hut
    behind him. He was not about to surrender them to any naked black man.
    In the silence between them the breeze rattled through the leaves. He glanced back at where his wife and infants lay, and when he looked again the man was gone. The
    darkness in front of him whispered and shifted, but there was only the forest. It could hide a hundred black men with spears, a thousand, a whole continent full of men with
    spears and that grim line to their mouths.
    He went quickly into the hut, stumbling against the doorway so that clods of daubed mud fell away from the wall. The hut offered no safety, just the idea of it, but he dragged
    the flap of bark into place. He stretched himself out on the dirt alongside his family, forcing himself to lie still. But every muscle was tensed, anticipating the shock in his
    neck or his belly, his hand going to the place, the cold moment of finding that unforgiving thing in his flesh.

    ISBN: 9781841959146
    ISBN-10: 1841959146
    Audience: Teenager / Young Adult
    Format: Paperback
    Language: English
    Number Of Pages: 334
    Published: 10th April 2007
    Country of Publication: US
    Dimensions (cm): 20.8 x 14.0  x 2.4
    Weight (kg): 0.32