Kate Grenville Watch #5

Reviews of The Lieutenant

Jay Parini in "The Guardian": "Grenville inhabits characters with a rare completeness. The focus of The Secret River was the highly circumscribed mind of Thornhill. In The Lieutenant, Rooke's thoughts and perceptions take centre stage; the whole world unfurls from his viewpoint, and little escapes his capacious intellect. He revels in everything from mathematical problems to Latin declensions...Grenville explores the natural rifts that arise between settlers and native people with a deep understanding of the ambiguities inherent in such conflicts."
Melissa McClements in "The Financial Times": "Sydney-born author Kate Grenville tackled the evils of colonialism in her previous novel, The Secret River, about a London thief who is deported to Australia. His desire for private land leads to violent clashes with the Aborigines, who are bewildered by the very concept of possession. In Grenville's latest book, she again examines the colliding worlds of the Georgians and the Aborigines, at a time when Australia was a dumping ground for Britain's overcrowded penal system. The Lieutenant, however, is a story of burgeoning comprehension, rather than mutual miscomprehension...In less capable hands, this could make The Lieutenant either mawkishly sentimental or rigidly polemical, but Grenville manages to avoid both. Genuinely affecting, her new novel is another capable tranche of character-based, historical fiction and a worthy foil to its predecessor."
Lucy Atkins in "The Times": "Initially, the novel is hard-going. There is plenty of information about Rooke -- his interest in mathematical constructs or rocks or the mechanism of a rifle, his mum's oatmeal, his little sister. But he seems documented rather than felt, perpetually once removed. This may be a deliberate strategy, but it makes the early part of the book feel distinctly flat. Then, about halfway through, Rooke's emotional journey really kicks in...Inevitably, 200-odd years of retrospective guilt hang over this book. But Grenville's touch is light here, too. There are occasional nods to history (Tagaran's language, observes Rooke, has 'the very cadence of forgiveness') but no self-indulgence."
Marg on the "Reading Adventures" weblog: "Not long before I started blogging back in 2005, I read The Secret River by Kate Grenville. Set at the time of the First Fleet it looked at the relationship between white settlers and the native Australian Aborigines who were already here. Grenville returns to this same setting in The Lieutenant...Whilst the setting is similar, there are significant differences between the two stories. In this novel, Grenville has pared the narrative right back to the basics of the story. We are very much focussed on Rooke's life, and his interactions. For me, this made The Lieutenant a much stronger, more interesting book."

Review of The Secret River

Wendy on "The List - Books for the Obsessive Reader" weblog: "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."

Essays by the Author

Grenville discusses the origins of The Secret River for "The Guardian" Book Club. You can also read John Mullan's piece about the same book for the same Book Club.

Author appearances

The author will be appearing at the Perth Writers' Festival at the end of February

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on February 17, 2009 11:18 AM.

Interview with Katherine Scholes was the previous entry in this blog.

Books for Bushfire Relief is the next entry in this blog.

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