Kate Grenville Watch #3

Reviews of The Lieutenant

Stella Clarke in "The Australian Literary Review": "You have to admire Kate Grenville, not only because she is among Australia's elite novelists, but also because of her tenacity. Here she is again, with The Lieutenant, daring to dabble in Australia's fraught, and still unsettled, British settler history...Arguably, ethical commitment is what characterises Grenville's fictional harrowings of Australia's violent past. It is evident in this new novel, and might be understood to validate her fictional embellishments of a handful of facts...Previously, however, Grenville hasn't just remade mainstream history. Her 1988 novel Joan Makes History was a lively, irreverent burlesque that subversively caught up the sort of female experience that traditional accounts let fall. Though The Lieutenant is edging her into the standard historical novelist box, her most successful earlier novels (Lilian's Story, 1994, Dark Places, 1995, and The Idea of Perfection, 2003) were original, darkly comic, profoundly probing explorations of vulnerable, odd or deviant people trying to make their stories prevail. Obliquely, they dealt with the extent to which power and authority dictate which accounts of events achieve currency...Grenville's novel suggests a laudable determination to guard storytellers' jittery claims on history, but at the price of truly startling inspiration. The historians' high dudgeon has apparently succeeded."
Genevieve Barlow in "The Weekly Times": "Were there doubters among the early white settlers to Australia who did not agree with the British way of settling another people's country? Perhaps it is Grenville merely recasting the scene and imbuing it with 21st century sentiments and regrets...This easy-to-read book set this reader thinking about the attitudes of many of our earliest settlers towards Aborigines."
Nigel Krauth in "The Australian": "At school I learned that the first 50 years of non-indigenous Australian history was a period of exploration, part of a grand project of European discovery. In my textbook, contact with 'the natives' was presented as marginalia, mere notes to the main narrative. There was no suggestion that the processes of indigenous and non-indigenous connection might involve opening up territory vaster than the interior of the wide brown land stretching before the explorers. There was no hint that the most challenging region to explore was the interior of the explorer himself...Grenville hasn't written a historical novel. She has written astutely about dark hearts today."

Short Notices

"BookBath" weblog: "I loved this seemingly simple but powerful book - even though this is a fictionalised account based on the life of a real person, William Dawes, I think it can still possibly inform us of some of the events and feelings of this traumatic and often violent part of this countries past - obviously still from the perspective of a white person which needs to be taken into account in our reading of this book."
Mark Rubbo from "Readings": "As in her masterful previous novel, The Secret River, Kate Grenville uses the early history of European settlement of Australia as a means to provoke and confront us. The reader is forced to reflect upon what she or he would do when faced with the choice between the 'intention of evil' and the intention of good, when the choice of good will almost certainly result in catastrophic personal consequences...From the slimmest items of history, Kate Grenville has constructed a tale that will delight and move you."


Ramona Kaval on ABC Radio National's "The Book Show".


"Caribousmom" weblog on The Secret River: "Grenville shows the wide gap between English and Aboriginal cultures...and the tremendous misunderstanding fueled by an inability to adequately communicate. Her prose is magnificent as she describes the land of Australia and gradually builds the tension between the characters, before bringing the novel to its inevitable and devastating conclusion. I was completely absorbed by this historical piece of work which is evocative, poetic and pulsing with the life of a time far in the past."
"Musings" weblog on The Idea of Perfection: "This book had a surprisingly strong impact on me. I loved the slow reveal of the characters, and their ultimate depth. And while the book moved quickly, Grenville suggests plot in the same way she does her characters. There were many times in this novel where she made a subtle point that connected several other events in a way that literally left me wide-eyed, astonished, and saying 'OH ... !!' out loud. "

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on October 16, 2008 2:41 PM.

Combined Reviews: Frantic by Katherine Howell was the previous entry in this blog.

Reprint: Australian Essays is the next entry in this blog.

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