Fine Writing for Fine Reading!
A pleasure to read
Felons transported to Australia in the early 19th century could (with good behaviour) become landowners. Our hero William Thornhill finally finds himself on a stunningly beautiful finger of land on the banks of the Hawkesbury River, a place he has coveted for years. However the Aboriginal people already living along the river see the land as their own. This novel is an outstanding study of cultures in collision, where an essentially good man has to make a disastrous decision.
What a harsh and brutal painting is described of both the people and landscape of colonial Australia. It sadden me to think humankind is still fighting and committing atrocities through misunderstanding and greed.
This is a perfect book for anyone who enjoys historical novels about the hardships of pioneering. It's the Australian version of Manifest Destiny, with the British immigrants pitted against Maori natives living inland from Sydney. An unforgettable read.
What sets this story apart from all the others I have read about Australia's history is the ending. Most gloss over the treatment of the native population but this one is very blunt. The main character, William Thornhill, has his flaws, like any other man.
I didn't like the ending. I wanted the main character to make a different, more satisfying choice.
Kate Grenville manages to bring two different worlds to life in this novel - the hardscrabble life of a bargeman on the Thames and the utterly astounding new world of Australia.
It is a tough read, especially knowing that this is probably how colonies began, with misunderstandings and deliberate ignorance. And she reveals how deep the racism that let the colonial era flourish was in the most average of people.
Kate Grenville won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2001 for The Idea of Perfection, but this is my first read by this author. The prose is brilliant - the descriptive narrative awesome. And the truth of this novel actually hurts because it is so honest and straightforward. This is a page-turner that will give you goosebumps if not nightmares.
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