“The Alexander, with its cargo of convicts, had bucked over the face of the ocean for the better part of a year. Now it had fetched up at the end of the earth. There was no lock on the door of the hut where William Thornhill, transported for the term of his natural life in the Year of Our Lord eighteen hundred and six, was passing his first night in His Majesty’s penal colony of New South Wales.”
I have to admit, when I spotted the endorsement “2006 Man Booker Prize Finalist” on the cover of this book, I had my doubts about the enjoyability factor of the novel. Thank goodness, the voters of the Booker Prize didn’t dismiss The Secret River simply because it was actually readable. In fact, it was more than readable – it was entertaining, enlightening and quite frankly, a beautiful work of historical fiction.
In the year 1806, William Thornhill is given a second chance at life. He is spared the gallows and is transported, along with his wife and small child, to a small but growing settlement in New South Wales. What follows is a tale of Thornhill’s transformation from a man without hope, to a man who understands he has the ability to forge his own future. This, of course, does not come without obstacles. Understanding a new terrain, new rules and an attempt to define where Thornhill fits in among a society of settlers and natives, presents a thrilling and psychological journey for Thornhill, his family and the reader alike.
4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2005