Sarah Thornhill by Kate Grenville – review by Toni Whitmont

by |August 24, 2011

The publication of a new Kate Grenville novel is always cause for excitement, especially so this time, as she is concluding  her loosely related Colonial trilogy, which started with The Secret River and then went on to The Lieutenant.

Sarah Thornhill, which will be published next month in a handsome hardback edition, can be read as a standalone novel, although the characters include Sarah, the youngest child of Will Thornhill, whose brutal convict past is the subject of much of The Secret River and whose secret casts a shadow over the life choices of his wilful and brave daughter.

The Secret River is disturbing and luminous. My theory is that it should be mandatory reading for all new comers to this country. I don’t reckon you can understand Australia without having read that book. The Lieutenant, which didn’t sell quite as well but which was to my mind in many ways a more intriguing story, bookended it neatly. Both books concerned powerful emotional relationships between the first Australians and the white colonists, and both involved the drama of choice.

Sarah Thornhill is a fitting ending to the trilogy. Grenville writes like a poet, matching her rhythm and cadence to the characters and the setting. The story is utterly compelling and the emotion is taut and eventually, overwhelming.

Sarah Thornhill is, at heart, a love story. And it is so much more. Grenville’s familiar preoccupations are all worked in exquisitely – the shame of past wrongs, notions of home and place, the carving out of identity, the connection and disconnection of race, the poison chalice of inheritance.

Sarah Thornhill, is a September release and is available to pre-order here. It will be published in a handsome hardback edition. This is a book that deserves its place on your shelf. You will be coming back to it again and again.

Go here for Kate Grenville’s answers to our Ten Terrifying Questions.

2 Comments Share:

About the Contributor


  • August 24, 2011 at 4:22 pm

    I can’t wait to read ‘Sarah Thornhill’, Kate! Thanks for the post, Toni.

  • evangelia dascarolis

    September 1, 2011 at 3:14 pm

    …’s fascinating to hear & watch Kate Grenville discussing her latest book….I will read it…Evangelia…….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *