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The Secret River    by Kate Grenville order for
Secret River
by Kate Grenville
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by Michael Graves

The Secret River starts in the early 17th century with William Thornhill in London trying against all odds to fend off hard times and enjoy a newly wedded life. As with many at that time, the road to some human comforts crossed the path of temptation to petty crime - crime, which in those days met with a hangman's noose. But in an act of partial clemency, William Thornhill and family were banished to the rugged environs of Sydney, Australia.

This tale by Kate Grenville takes us back to a time when Australia was a penal colony, with a story of the adventurers who found themselves tossed into that situation. The book is alive with strange characters - many unsavoury - who as pioneers develop this new land. But this is mostly a story of one family, who after suffering the 'outrages and deprivations' of life in Sydney decide to move upriver to an area of land 'as remote from Sydney as Sydney was from London'.

This is an epic novel of familial and environmental challenges, from which we truly feel how life must have been. The Secret River flows well with an excellent style that adds to the reading experience. Note that the novel won The Commonwealth Writers' Prize and is a Booker nominee.

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