Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Rating : 3.5/5
Number of Pages : 349
Reason for Reading : Library Book Discussion Group

William Thornhill is born in 1806 and brought up in poverty in London. As a young boy he is encouraged to steal on the side of helping his father collect dog shit which he sometimes has to dig up with his fingernails to sell to a local factory. As an adult after both of his parents have died, he gets caught stealing from his employer and is sentenced to be hung from the neck until dead. His wife and childhood sweetheart Sal helps him to petition for mercy and instead he is deported to Australia as the slave of his master Sal.

They begin to forge a new life for themselves. William works for two years before being able to apply for more freedom and later on his pardon. They gain their own 100 acres of land to raise their family and build their own hut. The problem is the black people who live on the land and have been there long before them. They are stealing from the white settlers and burning down their crops and dwellings. There is an undercurrent of violence between the two different races apart from one of the white settlers who learns the languauge and falls in love.

Things come to a head when Will has to choose between staying and "seeing to the blacks once and for all" and risking his life and that of his family, or giving in to Sal's deepest desire to go home to London. Will knows that they will be nothing in London, they will always be the family of a man who was detained by His Majesties Services and this will be remembered down the generations.

I enjoyed this book for the most part. It was very descriptive with very little dialogue. The early part of Williams life passes very quickly and I think it was just there to show where he came from and why he makes the choices he does. Sal was a great character as was his son Dick and neighbour Blackwood. It was nominated for a Man Booker Prize award and her earlier novel "The Idea of Perfection" won the orange prize for fiction in 2001 which I hope to read in the future.


Quixotical said...

Hi Rhinoa! Thought it was about time I dropped by your blog again!

I have this book on my "To Read" shelf, I purchased it on a whim last year. Glad to read your opinion on it, I look forward to getting round to this one!

Melody said...

I have not read anything by this author, and this book sounds interesting! I'll have to check this out. Thanks, Rhinoa! :)

Aarti said...

Hi Rhinoa- I got the link to your blog because Margo tagged me for Eva's book meme. How funny because I just reviewed The Secret River, too! I think we had different reactions, though- I really, really enjoyed the book. The italics instead of quotes around what people were saying got a bit tiring, but I thought some of the passages were gorgeous.

Rhinoa said...

Quixotical - I hope you enjoy it, thanks for stopping by!

Melody - Let me know if you get a copy, I will be interested to see what you think of it.

Aarti - Glad you found me :) I did enjoy it and there were some great parts, it just hasn't been my favourite so far this year.