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The Secret River

Narrated by: Paul Blackwell
Length: 10 hrs and 44 mins
Categories: Fiction, Historical
4 out of 5 stars (68 ratings)

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Summary

In 1806 William Thornhill, a man of quick temper and deep feelings, is transported from the slums of London to New South Wales for the term of his natural life. With his wife, Sal, and their children he arrives in a harsh land he cannot understand. But the colony can turn a convict into a free man. Eight years later Thornhill sails up the Hawkesbury to claim 100 acres for himself.

Aboriginal people already live on that river. And other recent arrivals - Thomas Blackwood, Smasher Sullivan, and Mrs Herring - are finding their own ways to respond to them. Thornhill, a man neither better nor worse than most, soon has to make the most difficult choice of his life.

©2005 Kate Grenville (P)2005 Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Producer: Heather Steen.

Critic reviews

" The Secret River is a powerful, highly credible account of how a limited man of good instincts becomes involved in enormity and atrocity. It is, at one remove, a sane and moving allegory of Australian development. It has quiet drama and drama of the hectic ghastly breakneck kind. It would make a fine film. It has the subtlety of being a sort of Swiss Family Robinson saga about the Australian dream. In historical terms it dramatises the settler's dream and it all but climaxes in its representation of the Australian nightmare. Then there is calm and sadness and the colour drained from the dream. The Secret River is a historical novel, full of contemporary insight and it is also a subtle expression in fictional terms of the myth of collective guilt for the fate of the Aborigines. It is to Kate Grenville's credit that she never surrenders her sense of the individual faces she captures as she tells this story. I suspect a lot of [listeners] are going to find this book both subtle and satisfying." ( The Age)
"One of the most entertaining, accomplished, engaging novels written in this country." ( The Courier Mail)

What members say

Average customer ratings

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

an uncertain narrative

The contemporary narratives of diverse peoples' presence in Australia are missing as ever. One day someone will offer perspectives of experience and reflect on the uncertainty of identity.

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Great Book; really helpful for the English course

The book had a great storyline and was incredibly thought provoking. The themes of ownership, love and hate were fantastically portrayed through Grenville’s descriptive and often sometimes unforgiving writing which displayed the good, the bad and the ugly of Thornhills character who represented her ancestor. Her ability to accept the fact that her heritage came from the atrocious acts carried out by the colonialists is refreshing and this book creates a sense of outright guilt and remorse for Thornhill, especially as we see how Thornhill becomes detached from his family after carrying out the atrocious acts and coercing with the plans of smasher and co. Her use of symbolism and description of nature throughout the book plays with the readers emotion, as she also successfully conveys the message that the aborigines belonged there as nature itself favoured them and they would never leave South Wales despite the hate towards them as symbolised at the end. The performers voice was very calming and he defined different characters very well but I could see myself wanting more action in his tone if I listened to this book in a few sittings rather than over a long period of time listening to 10 minute snippets of this book. However his performance of the book is still one of the best I’ve heard and someone’s voice can be a subjective topic so I would still recommend everyone to get this book as in some way or another you would have been affected by British colonialism and will be able to relate the wide selection of characters in this book.

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Kate is a wonderful painter of pictures

Brilliant book, makes me ashamed to think we did that to indigenous people, you really feel Williams guilt, like some of the characters and hate others! Well read, a pleasure to listen to!

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Thank you for helping me through my English GCSE

Great book will a deep compelling message about Australia’s struggle with the country’s culture. An interesting listen that is really worth it but on repeat listening it fails to hold up. There is a very good performance form the reader but it lacks the defining features.

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Thrilling, tender, harsh

I can see why Australian friends of mine have read this book several times. It is a compelling story of early convict settlers, a story of survival and love and has become one of my all time favourites. It is read brilliantly and the bars of music that separate the parts is perfect. You HAVE to listen to this book.

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  • henhao
  • 01-03-16

Powerful yet heartbreaking. An absolute must for every Australian

This is a powerful yet tragic tale and an absolute must-read for every Australian. Heartbreakingly informative about the colonisation/invasion of this land, both sides desperate for the other to move on. We recently saw the production on stage in Brisbane - again, a must-see if you have the chance. I also recommend watching Stan Grant's speech delivered in January 2016.

2 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Regina Carol
  • 03-11-19

Life as we make it

I found the story dark and heavy. The trials of people who encountered hardships and hateful people. I’m not sure I would have been a person to survive it.

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  • Jacqueline Woiso
  • 16-01-19

boring

I'm 17 and this book was an assignment but for most of it was dragging on too long for me

if you're a man of imagery go ahead otherwise there's better things to read

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  • Anonymous User
  • 17-12-18

Sad but good

Most of this book was really great - I liked the parts describing life in England to how someone came to be sent to Australia and what life was like once they arrived. It gets quite depressing at the end but it had. Will is a very real character that isn’t perfect and like us all, it shows how just thinking something isn’t good enough if your actions don’t match.

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  • Andrew
  • 07-05-18

Fantastic book

The book is fantastic. A great yarn in the Tradition of Dickens collides with the ugly reality of colonialism. The writing is superb.

The narrator is simply brilliant. The best narrators add so much life and heart to a book. I can’t recommend this reading highly enough.

To the indigenous people of Australia. You were robbed and murdered and called uncivilized criminals. It is impossible to imagine what could ever undo this injustice. It is heartbreaking to see how little has been done.

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  • faith cowgill
  • 16-04-18

Why the music?

The Music that plays in between the chapters is annoying . Maybe if it had something to do with the story, a story about Australia playing the didgeridoo… It might mean something, but it’s the same music this book house uses in between all of its audiobooks. Just get rid of it, that would be much better

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  • Merlin
  • 25-07-17

Vivid, well-told, life-story novel

I found this to be a very good conventional novel, strong all round and entertaining. It tells the story of a poor boy from London ho ends up seeking his fortune in Australia. The dialogue is excellent, and the narrator is superb.

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  • Tracey
  • 22-09-15

it should stay secret

This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

someone that likes a boring flat narrator and a rubbish storyline

What was most disappointing about Kate Grenville’s story?

it is the worst portrail of convict settelment that didn,t get to shack up with wife and kids when first transported

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Paul Blackwell?

i don,t think you could narrate this story better

If you could play editor, what scene or scenes would you have cut from The Secret River?

the start and didn,t get past first chapters

2 people found this helpful