Set a quarter of a century before The Secret River, at the moment when the British arrive in Australia, The Lieutenant tells an unforgettable story about friendship, language and power.
In 1787 Lieutenant Thomas Rooke sets sail from Portsmouth with the First Fleet and its cargo of convicts, destined for New South Wales. As a young officer and a man of science, the shy and quiet Rooke is full of anticipation about the natural wonders he might discover in this strange land on the other side of the world.
After the fleet arrives in Port Jackson, Rooke sets up camp on a rocky and isolated point, and starts his work of astronomy and navigation. It's not too long before some of the Aboriginal people who live around the harbour pay him a visit. One of them, a girl named Tarunga, starts to teach him her own language. But her lessons and their friendship are interrupted when Rooke is given an order that will change his life forever.
Inspired by the 1790 notebooks of William Dawes in which he recorded his conversations with a young Gadigal woman, The Lieutenant is a story about a man discovering his true self in extraordinary circumstances.
©2008 Kate Grenville; (P)2008 Bolinda Publishing
Having read Grenville's secret River I wa expecting more of the same with this book, but that was not the case. This book is far more factual and therfeore perhaps a bit dry - however, it is well written with strong characters that are easy to relate to. It describes beautifully the joy and fear from both the Aboriginal people and Rooke as they discover more about each other, and awakening of understanding even without language. Also, the sheer arrogance and stupidity of so called civilised white men as they clumsily attempt to 'help' the indigenous people. The ending seemed a little rushed compared with the pace of the rest of the book and left a few unaswered questions, I would like to have known a liitle more about Rooke's life after Australia and his work with slave emancipation.
This is a novel about communication, friendship, self discovery and the conflict between integrity and duty. It really has been beautifully written.
This may seem a little slow to start but it is well worth persevering as it develops into a truly engaging story that will leave you thinking about man and his ego, but also the wonder that is human diversity.
Listened to this before a vacation to Australia. Loved hearing the historical fiction and feeling a bit more connected to the area.
"a great story based on real events"
This is a most fascinating and moving story set around the time of England colonising Australia with the First Fleet. Based largely on the diaries of a young scholarly officer Dawes, the book starts with glimpses of the snobbery and bullying of the British class system in England and moves onto their settlement of a penal colony in New South Wales.
Kate Grenville writes a sensitive and griping story, the characters are portrayed in such a way that I could see it all happening and wanted to know what would happen next. The narration by Nicholas Bell is excellent. I found the story spell binding. I live in Sydney and to me it was particularly fascinating as for too long the harsh reality of what happened has been kept hushed up with official historical versions. At the same time Kate Grenville balances the harshness with the strong human spirit of a few characters who seek to care and respect others a fair manner against the odds.
I could picture this young officer setting up his hut separate from the settlement at the place we now know as Dawes Point (right beside where Sydney Harbour Bridge now stands) a most beautiful area of Sydney harbour. I am looking forward to my next Kate Grenville novel and I hope that she will write many more. A great read. Highly recommended.
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