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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...
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A ship is safe in the harbour - but that's not what ships are for.

I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night. (Sarah Williams)

Didn't. Didn't. Didn't.

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