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The Secret River Audiobook, by Kate Grenville Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: Kate Grenville Narrator: Narrator Info Added Soon Publisher: Blackstone Publishing Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: January 2006 ISBN: 9781455185146
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (4,680 ratings) (rate this audio book)
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Acclaimed around the world, The Secret River is a magnificent, transporting work of historical fiction.

In 1806, after a childhood of poverty and petty crime in the slums of London, William Thornhill is sentenced to be transported to New South Wales for the term of his natural life. With his wife, Sal, and children in tow, he arrives in a harsh land that feels at first like a death sentence. But among the convicts there is a whisper that freedom can be bought, an opportunity to start afresh. Away from the infant township of Sydney, up the Hawkesbury River, are white men who have tried to do just that. But, as uninhabited as the island appears, Australia is full of native people who also claim the land as their own.

A bestseller in Australia, The Secret River is the dramatic story of Grenville’s ancestors, who wrested a new life from the alien terrain of Australia and its native people.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Absorbing…Americans will find Grenville’s eloquent pioneer story—pitting natives against European settlers—at once foreign and stunningly familiar. A”

    Entertainment Weekly

  • “This wonderful story about ownership and identity is filled with images that transports you immediately to its heart.”

    Marie Claire

  • “Grenville has a reputation for elegant prose that cuts to the very heart of her subject matter with breathtaking precision. With The Secret River she has done it again in spades.”

    Vogue (Australia)

  • “Magnificent…An unflinching exploration of modern Australia’s origins.”

    New Yorker

  • “Nothing save for genius can explain the quality of this book, the extraordinary—one might even say alchemical—transformation of historical details into story, language into poetry. Against every measure with which a book might be judged, this one transcends. This one deserves every prize it has already received, and every prize yet to come.”

    Chicago Tribune

  • “The most remarkable quality of Kate Grenville’s new novel is the way it conveys the enormous tragedy of Australia’s founding through the moral compromises of a single ordinary man.”

    Washington Post Book World

  • “A book everyone should read. It is evocative, gracefully written, terrible and confronting.”

    Sunday Mail (Australia)

  • “Grenville [writes] with such inventive energy, descriptive verve and genuine love of revitalizing history that you’ll bite the hand that tries to haul you away from this book.”

    Weekend Australian

  • “Grenville earns her praise, presenting the settler-aboriginal conflict with equanimity and understanding. Grenville’s story illuminates a lesser-known part of history—at least to American readers—with sharp prose and a vivid frontier family.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “The moment [Vance] steps into dialogue…The characters become alive and distinct…Vance’s ability to convey sensitivity behind the gruff exterior of their voices…reaches refreshingly beyond the words on the printed page.”

    AudioFile

  • “Grenville [writes] with such inventive energy, descriptive verve, and genuine love of revitalizing history that you’ll bite the hand that tries to haul you away from this book…[it] is fabulous historical fiction.”

    Australian

  • “Plotting and characterization are so skillful that the book’s tragic climax seems inevitable. Grenville writes lyrically, especially in her description of the Australian landscape, while her gift for the telling phrase—one that conveys a paragraph of description in a few words—enlivens an essentially dark narrative.”

    Booklist

  • “Vance narrates smoothly with an impeccable upper-class British voice and then employs a variety of tones and accents for a wide assortment of early nineteenth-century London folk of many classes…compelling listening.” 

    Kliatt

  • Winner of the 2006 Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best Book
  • A 2006 Man Booker Prize Finalist

Listener Reviews

Write a Review
  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jan | 2/15/2014

    " I can't add anything to the reviews that have already been posted - suffice to say, a brilliant read, thoroughly researched and historically fascinating! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Linda | 2/12/2014

    " Well-written, interesting book about a man who is sentenced to death in early 1800s England and has his sentenced commuted to life in the penal colony in New South Wales. His family is allowed to go with him and the story tells how they adapted to their new life. The story is very compelling and it was hard to put the book down. The ending was not the one I was hoping for but was probably the historically realistic ending. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Diane | 2/10/2014

    " I don't remember why I had this book on my list and when I realized it was about convicts settling Australia in early 1800's, I almost didn't read it - just didn't want any more horror stories of convicts and aboriginal people being brutalized. It is to Grenville's credit as a writer that I became absorbed and mostly enjoyed the book. I ended up liking her approach and I found the main character likable and real and appreciate how Grenville shows the complexity of life in new Australia. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Clinton | 2/8/2014

    " Engagingly depicts and humanizes the conflicts of a marginalized convict condemned to colonize. To survive he must victimize the colonized in much the same way he was victimized in England. A excellent exploration of inner-conflict. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Lauren | 2/6/2014

    " Stunning fictional account of a man transported to Australia with his family after he steals wood in order to survive. Grenville conveys powerfully what it must have been like trying to stake a claim in a "new" world. What would you have done if you faced a choice between your dream for you and your family in a new land and doing right by the aboriginal people whose land it is? Emotionally and morally complex tale. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mieke | 2/2/2014

    " Loved this book. It gave a good insight what immigration into Australia must have been in the 19th century and although I felt sad about the evolution of their love, it was well documented and felt real. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rob | 1/28/2014

    " A little gem of a novel. It tells the tale of a convict sent to New South Wales and who builds a new life for his family. The crux of the novel is a the growing conflict between the White pioneers and the local Aboriginal tribe. Tip top, and William Thornhill's wife - Sal - is a beautifully drawn figure. Cracking. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Bruce | 1/14/2014

    " An interesting historical fiction spanning the work life in London to the early life in Australia. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Odette | 1/10/2014

    " Excellent account of Australia's first settlers historical journey. This book is about the moral costs of building a nation. Highly entertaining & thought provoking. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Cynthia | 12/6/2013

    " AUSTRALIA "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Meredith | 11/30/2013

    " This is a well-written and therefore compelling historic story. Grenville conveys the Australian colonial era, uncomfortably as one of struggle for foreigners and natives alike. The tale is touching and often quite sad, and Grenville tells it in a way that is simple yet gripping. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Elizabeth | 11/24/2013

    " Beginning in 18th Century London, The Secret River tells the story of William Thornhill who becomes a waterman on the Thames and eventually in New South Wales. Kate Grenville has woven a story that should become a classic. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jill | 11/7/2013

    " Compelling read by Kate. Terrifying insight into early Australian settlement and the aboriginal devastation "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kay | 8/23/2013

    " Interesting concept of chucking it all for a place of your own but the violence turned me off even though it was in keeping with the story. Just thought it was OK. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lorraine | 4/28/2013

    " I learned a lot about Australia's history "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Susie | 3/14/2013

    " Kind of a weird book about a family who goes to Australia because he is sent there as a prisoner. Glad I listened to this one, as my mind could wander as I listened. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Angela | 3/8/2013

    " A good thoughtful book. It gave a good insight as to what it must have been like to have been deported to Australia and the early development of that country. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Liticia | 1/18/2013

    " Very hard to get into this dry, desert of a book. Seemed so bleak and desolate. Learned some things about fortitude, determination and Australian debtor's colonies that related to my understanding of the founding of Georgia. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Annie | 12/22/2012

    " Lovely book - superbly well written, evocative, haunting descriptions and likeable, believable characters. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sharman | 11/24/2012

    " I liked the way this author chose to introduce and explain her characters. It read more like a memoir, but it was historical fiction. I liked the detail and how tightly the details were woven together. It was well written, but the story was sad because of the time period. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sandy | 5/20/2012

    " Really well written and very interesting. It made me feel very embarrassed by the treatment of the Aboriginies when Europeans migrated to Australia so parts of this novel were very hard to read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mindy | 12/23/2011

    " Difficult to read probably because it was realistic. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Al | 12/3/2011

    " Read Kindle version & enjoyed.... See other reviews to refresh "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Sarah | 9/4/2011

    " Takes you into the life of the characters so well both physically and emotionally. Fascinated by the clash of cultures/desires/claims to the land of the aboriginals vs the settlers. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Joan | 7/16/2011

    " A sad story of conquest. Success for one means destruction for another. "He did not understand why it did not feel like triumph." Similar stories across every continent. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Sean | 4/28/2011

    " Kept waiting for this book to get good. Very interesting setting, time, and plot. Kinda of a Swiss family Robinson story, but the writing and story telling I found really poor. Got half way through and bailed, which I very rarely do. Maybe it picks up but I lost patience with it "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Gary | 4/21/2011

    " Very well-written Australian classic. An engaging novel about a working class British couple sent down under when it was a penal colony. It probes the effects of empire on everyone concerned. A great read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jane | 4/15/2011

    " Intriguing story about Australian early settlers. Good story and characterization "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Nadine | 4/4/2011

    " Not a pleasant book to read but well worth reading. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rashid | 3/18/2011

    " The story is about hope and how might is right. What Americans did to the Indians, the Australians did to their natives there. Robbed them of of their innocence!!!

    Its a must read. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Mike | 2/27/2011

    " An interesting story of life in New South Wales in the early 1800's "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tracey | 2/26/2011

    " Brilliant book, loved it, perhaps because I am so familiar with the area but made to realise how much I didn't know "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Kienie | 2/23/2011

    " In short:
    I want a sequel with Blackwood and Dick, because I hated everyone else (except for Sal, at first). "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Thoraiya | 2/9/2011

    " Heart-breaking. Yes, Melanie. I did have a small cry. If only we could undo what was done. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Melanie | 2/8/2011

    " I'm pretty sure i'll make it past the "50" "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Claire | 2/3/2011

    " Utterly beautiful writing but terribly sad. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Emma | 2/3/2011

    " I did love it, beautifully written, very evocative of the time and place. It made me feel uncomfortable, the harshness of the times and there were some very disturbing incidents - but I guess that made it real (albeit a bit sad/depressing!) "

About the Author

Simon Vance (a.k.a. Robert Whitfield) is an award-winning actor and narrator. He has earned more than fifty Earphones Awards and won the prestigious Audie Award for best narration thirteen times. He was named Booklist’s very first Voice of Choice in 2008 and has been named an AudioFile Golden Voice as well as an AudioFile Best Voice of 2009. He has narrated more than eight hundred audiobooks over almost thirty years, beginning when he was a radio newsreader for the BBC in London. He is also an actor who has appeared on both stage and television.