Reading The Secret River earlier this year was a profoundly moving experience, as was seeing the superb theatrical adaptation of the novel produced by the Sydney Theatre Company*. Together, the novel and the play spoke to me spoke to me about the colonial experience in New South Wales in a way that all of my other reading on this subject has failed to do. When Grenville described looking at Sydney Harbour, imagining what it was like when the ship on which Wiseman arrived in the colony, I remembered having done exactly the same thing, as I imagined the arrival of my ancestors. This is quick to read and highly recommended to anyone who loves The Secret River, who is interested in the process of researching and writing a novel or who has tried to make sense of family history.
This book is likely to be of interest to aspiring authors and family history researchers, or those who enjoyed The Secret River.
This is a thoroughly Australian story, that Kate Grenville tells from a personal viewpoint.
After grinding through The Secret River, the impression I got from it was that it was that 1) Grenville put a crap load of research into the book, and 2) it was a personal story of sorts, and Searching for the Secret River confirms this. Maybe it was only a subconscious decision, but still, the main character was extremely dull, like she didn't want to paint him as one way or the other because in some sense she would still be making up a personality for someone real and connected to her, and I can understand that it would be a tricky thing to commit to. Like the The Secret River, Searching for the Secret River had the same lack of ...
I thought she did pretty well in not getting the book bogged in details that were probably fascinating to her but perhaps not so much to an outsider there were only a couple of times I felt I was getting a bit lost in facts and figures.
Kate Grenville is one of my favourite writers and I was bitterly disappointed when her novel The Secret River was passed over by the Miles Franklin judges.
There's a passage in Kate Grenville's historic novel 'The Secret River' that perfectly encapsulates the avarice that took over Australia's emancipated convicts. What is surprising, on reading this 'making of' book, is that the protagonist is based on Grenville's own ancestor, Solomon Wiseman, after whom the Sydney hamlet of Wisemans Ferry is named. But having read Grenville's whole 'Secret River' triology and this 'making of' book, I could only liken it to journeying into the heart of darkness.
It's quite another to create a whole society, and particularly a society which the writer knows little or nothing of, yet novels create whole worlds so they need whole societies even if they're not altogether described.