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The Lieutenant [Kindle Edition]

Kate Grenville
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)

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Book Description

A stunning follow-up to her Commonwealth Writers’ Prize-winning book, The Secret River, Grenville’s The Lieutenant is a gripping story about friendship, self-discovery, and the power of language set along the unspoiled shores of 1788 New South Wales. As a boy, Daniel Rooke was an outsider. Ridiculed in school and misunderstood by his parents, Daniel could only hope that he would one day find his place in life. When he joins the marines and travels to Australia as a lieutenant on the First Fleet, Daniel finally sees his chance for a new beginning. As his countrymen struggle to control their cargo of convicts and communicate with nearby Aboriginal tribes, Daniel constructs an observatory to chart the stars and begin the work he prays will make him famous. But the place where they have landed will prove far more revelatory than the night sky. Out on his isolated point, Daniel comes to intimately know the local Aborigines and forges a remarkable connection with one girl that will change the course of his life. The Lieutenant is a remarkable story about the poignancy of a friendship that defies linguistic and cultural barriers, and shows one man that he is capable of exceptional courage.

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Grenville (The Secret River) delivers another vivid novel about the British colonization of Australia, this one a delightful fictionalization of the life of William Dawes, a soldier-scholar who sailed from England in 1788 with the first fleet to transport British prisoners to New South Wales. Dawes's stand-in is Daniel Rooke, a loner with a passion for mathematics and astronomy who makes a living as a marine. He joins the expedition with the hope of tracking a comet that will not be visible from Great Britain, building a makeshift hut and observatory separate from the settlement (largely so he can avoid his prison guard duties). Although food is insufficient and the marines are outnumbered by the convicts, there is little unrest, but while Daniel shifts his ambitions from identifying previously unnamed stars to discovering a language and culture unknown in England, tensions escalate between the newcomers and the Aborigines, forcing Daniel to choose between duty to his king and loyalty to a land and people he has come to love. Grenville's storytelling shines: the backdrop is lush and Daniel is a wonderful creation—a conflicted, curious and endearing eccentric. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

Grenville’s novel, based on the true story of William Dawes, who was among the soldiers accompanying the first prisoners sent to Australia, concerns Daniel Rooke, a lonely, introverted sort whose skill as an astronomer earns him a privileged position in the first colonial mission sent to New South Wales, in 1787. Living apart from his regiment for the purpose of studying stars, Rooke befriends a young Aboriginal girl and begins to compile a vocabulary and grammar of her language. But as tensions between the two groups escalate he must choose between what he feels is right and what he considers his duty. Grenville’s thematic relentlessness can be stultifying, but the honest beauty of her story wins out.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1592 KB
  • Print Length: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press (December 31, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002UD4OCA
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #594,377 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "To warm one's hands by the fire and then... August 27, 2009
... to squeeze gently the fingers of another person." This is a long winded explanation for the word "kamara", the Cadigal expression for something like 'my friend'. The Cadigal are one of Australia's aboriginal 'tribes' who Daniel Rooke, astronomer by passion and soldier by necessity, encounters after landing in New South Wales with the First Fleet in 1788. Rooke, a loner since childhood, highly intelligent and curious about science, but awkward in his dealings with people, is an unlikely hero for an engaging gentle story of first intercultural encounters with aboriginals as the new British administration struggles to establish the first settlement in Sydney Cove. In her typical gentle and sensitive writing Kate Grenville has achieved something admirable and exciting with this novel: by recreating a fictionalized version of the actual events of the time, she has shown how human beings can succeed in interacting across any language and cultural divide and as a result can develop friendships that will change them fundamentally.

Daniel Rooke, similar to William Thornhill in The Secret River, her 2005 award winning novel, is loosely based on a real person: William Dawes, a little known soldier with an keen interest in the stars, the strange natural beauty of the local environment and, last but not least, a talent for languages. He inspired and informed Grenville's fictional treatment of a subject matter that has not lost its importance for Australians since. Beyond the specifics of historical events, Grenville has imagined a beautifully rendered intimate account of "first contact" between two very distinct cultures realized by two unusual individuals, Rooke and a young aboriginal girl, Tagaran.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Profound issues, but never really grabbed me August 7, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I had decided on three stars (three and a half, to be fair) for this book before I read the other reviews, and now that I have, I'm a bit perplexed as to why I'm so out of step with the apparent consensus of the other reviewers. Kate Grenville is clearly an accomplished writer, and the book's subject is intriguing, with great potential to develop into a powerful story. But The Lieutenant never really escapes the detachment of the title character, Daniel Rooke, who despite his appointment as a British officer, is a man of science more than war. Only fairly late in the narrative does he begin to wrestle with the fundamental issues of culture, conscience, identity and chauvinism that underpin the whole adventure and that could have made for an extraordinary read had they been developed more fully. As a consequence, it remains an arm's-length story and never packs the emotional wallop it could, or should, have.

Most of the story centers around Rooke's transplantation to New South Wales as part of Britain's grand plan to empty its overcrowded jails by dumping its convicts onto another continent (which, inconveniently, happens already to be inhabited). While he's excited about the exotic nature of his new surroundings, his main interest is in making a name for himself by mapping the heavens in the Southern Hemisphere. Instead, he finds himself befriending a handful of Aborigines and in particular, a young girl, who begins to teach him their language, which, being a scientist and linguist, he dutifully records.

Grenville does a fine job of describing Rooke's early life as a prodigy who never fits in with his peers, as well as the hardships everyone endures once they land in Sydney Harbor.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Quiet Hero October 15, 2009
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
For many American readers, the most pleasurable part of reading The Lieutenant will be exposure to Australian author Kate Grenville, rather than the unfolding of the plot. Very popular (beloved is not too far a stretch) in Australia, the quality of Grenville's work, including her previous novel Secret River, is easily high enough to make the trans-Pacific journey to American shores.

Grenville's considerable skill as a writer, and her uncommon ability to achieve cross-cultural perspective, is no accident: she teaches creative writing, and she has lived in Europe, the United States, and Australia.

The Lieutenant is fiction, but based on the life of William Dawes, a lieutenant in the First Fleet that brought convicts to Australian shores in 1788. The main character, Daniel Rooke, is a bit odd, scientifically and mathematically gifted, with extraordinary linguistic talent. This constellation of characteristics, when encountered today, is often categorized as in the higher functioning autistic spectrum. Rooke, often painfully aware of his own limitations, works hard to establish a relationship with, and learn the language of, the Cadigal, natives that inhabit New South Wales. His growing respect for, and love of, the natives is transformative for Rooke. The conflict between the values that Rooke brings to Australia, and his deep attraction to the Cadigal, brings the story to a climax in which he has to choose between loyalty to his nation and allegiance to his own moral principles.

Kate Grenville's strength is in the details, and in her refusal to descend into literary soap opera.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Two Stars
I usually like Kate Grenville's book but I found this to be boring and lacking any content.
Published 1 month ago by Mo
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Every Australian should read this
Published 6 months ago by Jane E Ralls
5.0 out of 5 stars I need to know the people who are hurting.
This book of Kate Greenville's is a delightful insight into the indigenous people of Sydney Harbour that the Lieutenant gets to know, that enables the reader to be as close as the... Read more
Published 9 months ago by colin bebe
3.0 out of 5 stars Strong story, beautiful perspectives
The vision, imagery and emotional connections in this book were stunning. However, I get the feeling that this book just slightly missed the mark on its way to being a... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars A very thought provoking book
Very different from the others in this series yet like the other two a really good and moving as well as thought provoking book.
Published 16 months ago by Ronald M Pontifex
4.0 out of 5 stars a look into the past
I enjoy history based novels. This gives a colorful account of the perils of the early settlement of the British and how they treated the natives, prisoners and naval... Read more
Published 16 months ago by Eileen Huge list
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting angle on Australian history
As a big fan of Australian books and history, I found this book fantastic and the author is an excellent story teller, you could feel yourself there in the midst of the early... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Jan Moniz
5.0 out of 5 stars great book on encounter between colonizers and indigenous population
This is another great book by Grenville on the early history of colonization in Australia (the other is The Secret River). Read more
Published 19 months ago by Marita
4.0 out of 5 stars Grenville is masterful again
Australian author Kate Grenville, in "The Lieutenant," has fashioned a loose companion-piece to the powerful and award-winning "The Secret River," and in the process has shown an... Read more
Published 19 months ago by BassoProfundo
4.0 out of 5 stars poignant
This is a poignant story of a young man/marine/astronomer/linguist of a "developed" culture coming upon a "primitive" culture. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Gretchen Tremoulet
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More About the Author

Kate Grenville ( was born in Sydney, Australia. She's published eight books of fiction, including the multiple prize-winners 'The Secret River', 'The Lieutenant', 'The Idea of Perfection', and 'Lilian's Story'. She's also published three books about the writing process that are classic texts for Creative Writing classes, and a memoir about the research and writing of 'The Secret River'.

Grenville writes about Australia, but her themes are universal: love, violence, and survival. Her characters are often inspired by real historical characters: her own nineteenth century convict ancestor, an early Australian settler; a bag-lady on the streets of 1950s Sydney who quotes Shakespeare for a living; a soldier in the Sydney of 1788 who shares an extraordinary friendship of tenderness and respect with a young Aboriginal girl.

Grenville's international prizes include the Orange Award, the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, and a shortlisting for the Man Booker Prize. Her books have been published all over the world and translated into many languages, and two have been made into feature films.

Learn more about Kate Grenville, her books, and how to get hold of them, at

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