The Secret River

The Secret River tells the story of William Thornhill, a convict transported to Australia in 1806 for stealing and his relationship with the Darug people, the aboriginal people and traditional owners of the land surrounding the Hawkesbury River where he attempts to settle. This river was inspired by the family history of the author and is a fascinating insight into Australian history.

For more book reviews on convict history in Australia, check out The Floating Brothel

When I arrived in Australia, I felt overwhelmingly ill-informed regarding the history of the indigenous people, especially since the arrival of the first fleet in 1788. I’ve been attempting to learn as much as I can both from reading Australian fiction and non-fiction. The Secret River is an evocative, realistic and unnerving portrayal of the tense relationships between the first settlers and indigenous people. I appreciated how the author develops your sympathy for both sides; you struggle alongside William Thornhill and his family as they adapt to a new world and attempt to scratch a living off the land, whilst simultaneously feeling enraged for the Darug people as their land is encroached upon. This empathy becomes a source of moral conflict as the story progresses.

I was particularly moved by the author’s description of the Darug people’s affinity with the land. The land is what sustains them, both physically and emotionally. It is the detrimental effect of taking away this land on their culture, their identity and their mental state that is highlighted, and this impact is still sadly evident in many aboriginal communities today. I highly recommend The Secret River to anyone who wants to learn more about this country’s complex history.

Author: Kate Grenville
Rating: 5/5
Buy: Get your copy here

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