The Secret River

In the absorbing novel, The Secret River, loosely based on Kate Grenville’s family history, London criminal William Thornhill, convicted of stealing lumber, is banished in 1806 to His Majesty’s penal colony in New South Wales. At first, he’s overcome by Australia’s strangeness: ”Above him in the sky was a thin moon and a scatter of stars as meaningless as spilt rice.” After eight years, Thornhill wins his freedom and strikes a claim on the Hawkesbury River, where he and wife Sal battle snakes, illness, and a band of aborigines who regard Thornhill’s property as their own. Americans will find Grenville’s eloquent pioneer story — pitting natives against European settlers — at once foreign and stunningly familiar.

The Secret River
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