I'm reviving a book I reviewed on here right at the beginning
The Secret River by Kate Grenville, it is one of the few that has made a 4* review for me this year which would mean it needs to be outstanding and leave me with the feeling that I have just been part of something very special. 5* in case you are wondering involves me hyperventilating and needing a bag to breath into.
It's all very subjective I know but plenty are in agreement with me over this book which won the 2006 Commonwealth Writer's Prize.
I actually dragged myself away from Canada to read my way into the Australian outback and there is an excellent interview with Kate Grenville in this weekend's press.
It is customary for recipients of this award to make some protest at having to receive their prize;some refuse to attend the ceremony with the Queen at the Palace others refuse to curtsy. I assumed this was any men who win it but actually it was Andrea Levy last year for Small Island. I've no news on what Kate Grenville did or didn't do but she does report that she was impressed with the Queen's knowledge on the subject of the aborigines.
One aspect of this book which I appreciated was Kate Grenville's balanced and non-judgemental approach to a very delicate and embarrassing issue namely that of the treatment of the first nation inhabitants.The Secret River traces the lives of a Thames Lighterman and his family deported to Australia in 1806 for stealing timber. Their arrival and the subsequent colonisation of the aboriginal lands makes for both moving and revealing reading as Kate Grenville ships you reluctantly out onto the Hawksebury River, by this time she has instilled as much doubt in you as a reader that this will succeed as in William's wife Sal. You are left stranded with the Thornhill family as they fight the elements to eke out an existence on land that has sustained the aboriginal people plentifully for eons because they know and understand it.
She carefully represents the rights and apparent wrongs on both sides so evenly that by the end of the book you feel emotionally informed but truly divided and clearly able to see both sides of a situation that,according to Kate Grenville, remains largely unresolved.
The Thornhills ultimately get what they want but you are left feeling that they know the price was too high and somehow inexcusable.