The Secret River

The Secret RiverThe Secret River by Kate Grenville
Published by Text Publishing on July 1st 2005
Pages: 414
ISBN: 1921776404
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This is a type of book, where the more I think about it, the more I like it.

William Thornhill grew up poor in England. His parents died when he was young leaving him to are for his younger siblings. He takes a job as an apprentice with his childhood friend, Sal’s parents. He has always liked Sal and as he learns a trade and sleeps under the same roof with her he falls in love with her. At the end of his apprenticeship he and Sal marry. Her parents also pass away. Tragedy seems to follow them. With an infant and wife to care for, he begins a job and learns he does not make enough to care for everyone and steals some wood. He is sentenced to the penal colony of New South Wales. His wife and son go with him to Australia. When they dock, he sees his newborn son as his wife has given birth while on the voyage (they travel on different parts on the ship as he is a prisoner and she is not).

After they arrive in Syndey they find a way to make it 50 miles north and William claims 100 acres as his. Sal does not like this new land, she is uncomfortable but promises her husband she will give it 5 years. During this time more children are born and Sal deals with loneliness and the hope that she will return home in 5 years time.

In the every beginning of the Novel, William awakens to find a man standing in his hut – naked holding a spear. The man tells him “Be off”. I liked the entire passage’s description. I think it does a great job of showing how both the Aborigines and the colonists feel about each other. The Aborigines have always lived in that area, it was theirs, their children’s. It is their home. Then comes in Colonists who proudly proclaim the land as theirs. Atrocities occur on both sides. Aborigines are mistreated. Colonists get speared.

Sal and William hear the stories. They have contact with the Aborigines. Sal makes a trade with the women, her bonnet for their crude bowls. The Thornhills believe that they can live on this land without incident. They do not want to treat the native people as other colonist have done so. They refuse to take actions against them as their peers have done. They do not know what to make of the naked people. I like how William thought that the Aborigines in their nakedness and their way of life are more free than he has ever been in his life.

This book also delves into what do good people do to protect what is theirs? Even though we hear Williams voice, I feel the Author did a good job showing us the plight of the Aborigine. It would have been nice to have more of that voice told; however. At what point does a good man, make the decision to act against his morals and values? By the end of the book, William is faced with that question. He wants to be successful in his life and to care for his family. Both sides feel entitled to the land. Neither side has anywhere else left to go. By the end of the book, this issue of land ownership comes to a head. The book began as a romance between William and Sal and ended with a struggle of survival.

This is book has some disturbing scenes _ people poisoned by the “green powder”, a woman kept as a sex slave, physical attacks, etc.