Customer Review

52 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb book, June 22, 2006
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This review is from: The Secret River (Hardcover)
One of the books I read during my recent holiday was Kate Grenville's brilliant The Secret River. But it was upsetting, too, which is why I've put off commenting. I've a penchant for colonial literature and this is an entry in that category for sure. Yet, what sets it apart from, say, Conrad and others, is its working-class tone.

And, it does make brutally clever sense. The British essentially used convicted felons and their families to settle Australia, or, at lest, its rim. It's shock troops weren't soldiers but the transported working class who quite likely were even more tenacious and driven. That's the story Grenville tells in this utterly affecting novel. It's the sort of book that gives the reader pause, makes the reader sit back a bit to question -- what is happening here? This is a revisionist sort of colonialism that sets a new context ... but doesn't change the outcome. But, then, nothing could.

Superb novel, excellent reading from stem to stern. The writing is particularly fine, herewith a few bits:

"She was inclined to take it personally about the trees, wondering aloud that they did not know enough to be green, the way a tree should be, but a washed-out silvery grey so they always looked half dead. Nor were they a proper shape, oak shape or elm shape, but were tortured formless things, holding out sprays of leaves on the ends of bare spindly branches that gave no more protection from the sun than shifting veils of shadow. Instead of dropping their leaves they cast off their bark so it dangled among the branches like dirty rags. In every direction that the eye travelled from the settlement all it could see were the immense bulges and distances of that grey-green forest. There was something about its tangle that seemed to make the eye blind, searching for pattern and finding none. It was exhausting to look at: different everywhere and yet everywhere the same."

...

"For himself he bought a pair of boots, the first he had ever owned. When he put them on he understood why gentry looked different. Partly it was having money in the bank, but it was also your boots telling you how to walk."
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