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Sarah Thornhill Hardcover – June 5, 2012

3.8 out of 5 stars 84 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


—Winner of the Australia General Fiction Book the Year Award (Sydney Writers' Festival)
—Short-listed for the Prime Minister's Literary Award for Fiction

"Both brilliant fiction and illuminating personal history."—The Independent

“It is with often marvelous vividness and clarity that Grenville evokes Sarah’s world. . . . Through the eyes of this young woman, the physical and cultural strangeness of a nation still clambering into existence spring richly to life.”—The Guardian

"Grenville's Early Australia trilogy comes to a brilliant conclusion. . . . Lovingly detailed . . . Full of fascinating characters."—Booklist

Sarah Thornhill displays [Grenville’s] gift for creating character full blaze. . . . A great work of truth . . . What unfolds is a box of surprises, richly wrapped in language so colorful and lively, you can taste it. . . . You believe in [Sarah’s] honesty, her perceptiveness, her way of ‘reading’ others. . . . A wonderful novel.”—The Scotsman

"I was thrilled to find myself back beside the river I’d come to know so well in The Secret River. The power with which Kate Grenville evokes places and people is so remarkable that I could remember the smell of the air there—and it was no surprise to discover that Sarah Thornhill’s story is as gripping and illuminating as her father’s was."—Diana Athill

“Grenville’s extraordinary trilogy is a major achievement in Australian literature.”—Australian Book Review

“A moving piece of fiction . . . Powerfully realized . . . Sarah Thornhill is the book of a writer of the first rank. . . . A haunting performance.”—The Age (Australia)

“[A] powerful saga of colliding histories [that] blends romance and honesty.”—The Independent (Ireland)

“A beguiling love story . . . The voice of illiterate Sarah is Grenville’s great triumph. . . . An imaginatively convincing recreation of history and a celebration of country tenderly and beautifully observed, but above all it is a powerful plea for due acknowledgement and remembrance of the veils of the past.”—Adelaide Advertiser

“Revisits the fascinating, trouble territory of the history wars. . . . Grenville’s vivid fiction performs as testimony, memory, and mourning within the collective post-colonial narrative.”—The Australian

“This is a beautiful book, one that pulses with insight and compassion . . . Grenville’s descriptions are a delicate fretwork of words. . . . Not only is Sarah Thornhill gorgeously written, but the love story at its heart is as real and true as it is unexpected. This is a novel that will be treasured by generations to come. It is that rare book that manages to wholly engage both head and heart. Grenville has done a splendid job.”—The Canberra Times

"Grenville's great strength is her sensual fleshing-out of the past. . . . Her vision of our colonial history is at once compelling and fable-like, as she writes contemporary white self-knowledge back into it." —The Monthly (Australia)

"[A] captivating tale of a woman's fight to find an identity of her own in a 'new' colony. [Grenville's] wonderful account shows how hard it can be simply to be yourself. . . . A deeply moving conclusion to a romantic but by no means sentimental story."—The Telegraph

“[A] beautifully crafted historical re-imagining.”—New Zealand Listener

“A strong and disturbing narrative.”—Sydney Morning Herald

About the Author

Kate Grenville's works of fiction include The Secret River, winner of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best Book and short listed for the Man Booker Prize, and The Idea of Perfection, winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction. She lives in Sydney.

Visit her website at kategrenville.com

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press (June 5, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802120245
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802120243
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,792,879 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
Sarah is the youngest child of William Thornhill, the figure at the centre of `The Secret River'. William was a transported convict, now `an old colonist' who has a family, land along the magnificent Hawkesbury River, and money. No-one had settled this land before William, but even so, when he surveys his estate (on the last page of `The Secret River'): `He would not understand why it did not feel like triumph.' Readers of `The Secret River', knowing of the `affray' at Blackwood's will understand. But for much of Sarah's story, this event is an unknown part of the past.

Born in 1816, Sarah - called Dolly by her family - has played no part in the events of the past. Sarah's story is told in the first person. We learn of her life and her loves, and her illiteracy shapes the narrative in particular ways. New South Wales is home for Sarah and her generation: they cannot share their parent's nostalgia for Britain.

Sarah's first love is Jack Langland. Jack is the eldest son of Jack Langland, another settler, but not of Jack's wife: `Jack's mother was not Mrs Langland. She was a darkie, long dead.' Jack is the best mate of Will, William's son, and is a well-known to, and liked by most members of, the Thornhill family. But events, assisted by Sarah's stepmother, conspire to separate Jack and Sarah.
After Sarah's brother, Will, drowns on a sealing expedition to New Zealand, Jack brings Will's half-Maori daughter to her grandfather. This is a pivotal and ultimately very unhappy event in Sarah's story and has echoes from William Thornhill's past.

Sarah marries an Irish settler, John Daunt, and moves with him to the edge of European settlement. This is the part of the story I enjoyed most: the growing bond between John and Sarah.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I absolutely loved The Secret River and The Idea of Perfection, and I enjoyed The Lieutenant, but this latest effort is my least liked novel from this writer. I was definitely disappointed with this follow-up to The Secret River. I enjoyed most of the first 1/3 of the text but it quickly became too much of a soap opera after that, and I doubt few men would enjoy reading it. I might be wrong, but I think it is geared for the light romance reader, just in time for Xmas 2011. Unfortunately, I thought it was a follow up to The Secret River that probably should have been avoided.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
**review of an advanced publication copy of 'Sarah Thornhill' by Kate Grenville**

Unlike many other reviewers, I haven't read earlier books of the series, which might make a difference for those who have. The view into the Thornhill family from Sarah's eyes during what seems to be a transitionary period in Australia's history is interesting, yet for this reader seemed almost too superficial. What's clear is Sarah is different from the rest of her family members while remaining shaped by them... especially her father.

Perhaps part of the difficulty is its first person narrative style in a decidedly uneducated and niave voice from beginning to end? There's little proper grammar; it gets tedious after awhile. Other readers might find it artsy or refreshing, but I found myself wanting to skip past dialog.

Only in the final third of the book are we introduced to the real meat of the story and moral questions/lessons... history is often ugly with future generations bearing the shame of those who came before. No spoilers here, but the ending just didn't seem plausible in any way, and felt disappointing. Again, I didn't read earlier books in the series so your mileage may vary.

Given the true weight of its historical subject matter and moral struggle tied to that history, 'Sarah Thornhill' could have been a 5 star novel for any reader had the story been more fully and deeply developed.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The Secret River had a dominant position in literature of the contact/conflict period of australian history, it was impossible to put the book down without speculating on what life would have been for the protagonist, William Thornhill, as he enjoyed his success and was plagued by guilt. Sarah Thornhill addresses these questions and develops a new and very interesting character who was both confronted by issues of race relations and the realisation of her father's misdeeds. Great evocation of the early colonial era and the tough life all endured.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Third in a series based on the Thornhill family's settlement in Australlia, 'Sarah Thornhill' is the definitely weakest installment. While it was a fast and fairly engaging read, I kept thinking to myself that I had read it all before. Grenville traces again the tricky relations between the white settlers and the black native inhabitants. At times, the blacks (and half-blacks) seem to be accepted--up to a point; at other times, prejudice is rampant. Sarah's Pa, who was "sent out" (meaning he was sent to Australia as punishment for crimes committed in England), has made his way up in the world, accumulating money, land, and a bit of class, including a second wife with pretentions of joining the hoi polloi. The first half of the novel centers around Sarah's growing love for Jack Langland, a half-black young man who seems to be accepted into the family circle. The two have pledged to marry, but when they make this known, Pa and Ma Thornhill make clear where the social and racial lines are to be drawn. As things start to fall apart, family secrets start seeping through the cracks--secrets that tear apart not only Sarah and Jack but the entire Thornhill family.

On the plus side, Grenville draws a sharp portrait of the hardships of life on a new settlement as she focuses on Sarah's newly married life with Irishman John Daunt. What she has to say about black-white relations, while painful, is fairly conventional and has been handled more deftly in other works.

I have to agree with the reviewer who complained about the substitution of the word "of" for "have" (or, more accurately, the contraction 've) throughout. Maybe the reason it bothered me so much is that, as an English professor, it's one of the perennial errors in student papers that really grates on my nerves.
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