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[personal profile] byslantedlight
SecretRiver-KateGrenvilleI can't believe this is the first book I'm posting about this year, but then there's been alot going on. I have been reading, but mostly comfort-reading (Astreiant, at the moment). But The Secret River was the first book in 2017 for my book group, and my last one for them, of course, so it had to be squeezed in!

London, 1806 - William Thornhill, happily wedded to his childhood sweetheart Sal, is a waterman on the River Thames. Life is tough but bearable until William makes a mistake, a bad mistake for which he and his family are made to pay dearly. His sentence: to be transported to New South Wales for the term of his natural life. Soon Thornhill, a man no better or worse than most, has to make the most difficult decision of his life.

The Secret River kept me reading, and sometimes pulled me in so deeply I was almost dreaming about it (and it won the Orange Prize and was shortlisted for the Man Booker, so you'd kind of hope for that sort of thing *g*), but I must admit that it wasn't quite the book that I wanted it to be.

The characters were all very much ordinary people, which is a good thing (enough about Lords and Ladies!), but on the other hand I found most of their reactions too ordinary - I wanted more from them, if they were going to take up my time. It's not that Thornhill and Sal were bad people, but they didn't buck any trends, they didn't go that extra mile (and very rarely the extra inch) and as a book about history that's exactly how things were, I imagine. And it is a very good read about history, and how things happen and come to happen and are allowed to happen - but I tend not to read novels for history, that's an added bonus for me.

I suppose I read novels for the hope of them - for stories where people have won out when things looked bad, or managed to survive something that looked disastrous or deadly, and where I can see something about them to admire and even emulate. I want to be that character who wins out, and so I can copy their fortitude when I'm feeling lousy and hope to get there too. Thornhill and Sal won out in the end - but not in any way that a reader could possible aspire to, not really (at least I don't think so), and so I was left feeling just a little bit emptier at the end. Greedy me would always rather feel more full when I've finished a book. *g*

So - on the one hand I totally recommend this, for what was going on way back when in Australia, but perhaps not if you're looking for something uplifting...

Date: 31/01/2017 04:41 pm (UTC)
ext_9226: (snaily-snow - snailbones)
From: [identity profile] snailbones.livejournal.com


It sounds like something I'd enjoy - we had various family members transported to Australia, so it's always fascinated me - but like you, I need to like the characters enough to care about them and maybe be inspired by them.

Thank you for the review. I always take note of your reading - so often I enjoy the same things.

Date: 31/01/2017 06:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] byslantedlight.livejournal.com
Yeah, I think you might - it is good, and I did like the characters, and I wanted them to do better and get what they wanted, so - yeah. *g*

And thanks! It's always nice to know I'm not just wittering on to myself... although you know of course that if you're going to say so often I enjoy the same things, then that means I wonder what you're reading... *vbg*

Date: 31/01/2017 07:33 pm (UTC)
ext_9226: (snaily-snow - snailbones)
From: [identity profile] snailbones.livejournal.com



Currently I'm bogged down in One Hundred Years Of Solitude, which I desperately want to like, but so far I'm meh... But then Larton appears online, which I've never read, so oops! There goes One Hundred Years, cast aside for fanfic for the third time in a row... But really, no contest!

Date: 31/01/2017 08:02 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] byslantedlight.livejournal.com
We are definitely reading-twins then - I can't remember if I ever finished OHYoS, but I do remember being bogged down in it, and thinking meh... I wanted to like Garcia-Marquez, cos apparently he's amazing, but... meh.

Date: 31/01/2017 08:26 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] loxleyprince.livejournal.com
What a shame the protagonists in the The Secret River weren't more admirable.

I'm currently reading A Pirate of Exquisite Mind by Diana and Michael Preston. It's about the life of one William Dampier, who is described in the subtitle as an Explorer, Naturalist, and Buccaneer. The bad things that befall this poor chap are enough to make one weep with gratitude for not having to endure similar, but for all that, he is the most resilient of souls, resourceful and intelligent, and with an insatiable curiosity for just about everything. Oh, and a pirate to boot, at least for a while. What's not to love, eh? :-)
Edited Date: 31/01/2017 08:27 pm (UTC)

Date: 31/01/2017 09:43 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] byslantedlight.livejournal.com
I liked the characters well enough, and I could see why they made the choices they did, I just wanted a bit more from them... I'm demanding like that. *g*

And wow - so everyone's heading to Australia in their books just now! *g* Sounds like a good recommendation, I shall keep my eyes out for it. I should probably know a bit more about the history of the country I was born in than I do... *g*

Date: 31/01/2017 10:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] loxleyprince.livejournal.com
When you're settled in your new place, I'll send you my copy. (I rarely re-read non-fiction.)

Date: 01/02/2017 08:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] byslantedlight.livejournal.com
Well thanks!

Date: 31/01/2017 10:55 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] caffyolay.livejournal.com
I read this one quite a few years ago now so my memory of it is sketchy. I'm pretty sure I liked it, I'm also pretty sure that was because it taught me a bit of the history of Australia because, like Manuel, I know nothing. *g* To be honest my favourite book about Australia is Down Under by Bill Bryson. It wouldn't harm me to read more but you know how it is... so many books etc...

Date: 01/02/2017 08:17 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] byslantedlight.livejournal.com
It's pretty good about this particular part of the history of Australia - including alot of things that weren't (maybe even aren't) taught in history classes at school (and should be), but it's definitely not the most uplifting part either (you know, the whole slaughter of native Australians...) (Sorry, apparently I am brackets girl this morning!)

I can't remember whether I've read Down Under or not - I had a phase of reading whatever Bill Bryson I could get hold of (years ago now), but he's published alot since then too!

Date: 01/02/2017 12:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] siskiou.livejournal.com
Thanks for the review! It sounds like something to at least give a try and I like the cover!
Though I'm so stressed out by the current political situation that I'm having a hard time settling down to anything.
Maybe we should pull up stakes and move to Australia! ;)

How are your preparations going?

Date: 01/02/2017 09:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] byslantedlight.livejournal.com
It's a good book, definitely - maybe it just wasn't the best timing for me to read it, what with all the uncertainty around, both personal and political... I really feel for you, over there - it's bad enough over here at the moment... I'm not sure that even Australia's a safe place...

How are my preparations for pulling up stakes and moving to Australia? I'm giving it two years, then we'll see how it's all worked out... *g*

My preparations are eeeeep! I've not packed anything cos I'm telling myself the first week is a trial week, and if it doesn't go well then I still want to have this place - except that I really don't think it will go wrong, so part of me just thinks I should get on with it. But my rent's paid to the end of February, so... I've been trying to sort out stuff that's needed sorting (and often shredding!) for years, so I don't take it with me... and today I'm thinking about how I deal with two (three?) old laptops safely. One has a cracked screen so not recyclable, another won't start at all. I guess I need to take out the hard drives and deal with them from there... All the little things that will save space in the end!

Date: 01/02/2017 06:40 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] siskiou.livejournal.com
Oh, I still have my previous laptop and the one before that around! *g*
They actually still both work, but are old and slow and can't handle today's media heavy web pages all that well anymore.
The 9 year old Dell is our "watch DVDs in the MG" computer, and if it gets stolen, it's no great loss.
Not sure, why the other one is still around. I should take it to Next Step recycling (a place just for electronics).

So, you are just packing a bag of clothes for a week, and then bring everything else later, when you are certain that you will be okay with your new job for a couple of years?
That sounds like a good plan!
You'll still have your home, and your old job, if it turns out to be awful (which it won't!) at your new place.
Does your position include housekeeping beyond the children's rooms, or does the family have other staff for the house/garden etc.?

Date: 01/02/2017 09:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] siskiou.livejournal.com
Oh, I still have my previous laptop and the one before that around! *g*
They actually still both work, but are old and slow and can't handle today's media heavy web pages all that well anymore.
The 9 year old Dell is our "watch DVDs in the MG" computer, and if it gets stolen, it's no great loss.
Not sure, why the other one is still around. I should take it to Next Step recycling (a place just for electronics).

So, you are just packing a bag of clothes for a week, and then bring everything else later, when you are certain that you will be okay with your new job for a couple of years?
That sounds like a good plan!
You'll still have your home, and your old job, if it turns out to be awful (which it won't!) at your new place.
Does your position include housekeeping beyond the children's rooms, or does the family have other staff for the house/garden etc.?

Date: 01/02/2017 10:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] miwahni.livejournal.com
This is on my list to read, which keeps getting longer day by day. Added to it today, with the purchase of a book called Elizabeth is Missing which looks intriguing.

Anyway. The Secret River was turned into a mini series by the ABC last year which I didn't watch, thinking I'd read the book first.

Date: 01/02/2017 12:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] gilda-elise.livejournal.com
Hm, not sure this is something I'd enjoy. While the main protagonist doesn't have to be Superman, I do want there to be something about the person that I like, something that will make a connection.

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