Review-Sarah Thornhill-Kate Grenville

This year I am on a quest again to read more books by Australian women.  It worked fairly well last year but there are still so many other great writers out there who I haven’t read their books yet.  Like Kate Grenville who is one of Australia’s best known authors.

I have long been a fan of books that have a historical element to them.  My love of Australian books like this started with E.V. Timms books and his Australia saga.  My grandmother had the whole set of these books that are still treasured and my parents have them now.

As it states on Grenville’s website, although Sarah Thornhill is part of a series (it is the third book in the ‘Colonial Trilogy’ after The Secret River and The Lieutenant)  it is a stand alone book in its own right.


The Lieutenant tells the story of the first generation of Europeans in Australia, when conversation between black and white was still possible. The Secret River is about the next generation, when that conversation was closed down by violence. Sarah Thornhill is about the third generation, the ones who have to deal with what the past has created, and have the responsibility to tell its story.

(taken from Kate Grenville’s website)


Synopsis: Sarah and Jack have never doubted that they are made for each other.  But there is someone in Sarah’s family who will not tolerate the relationship.

The reason lies in both the past and the present, and it will draw Sarah across an ocean to a place she never imagined she would be.

My thoughts: Wow from the first page essentially.  Grenville brings to life the Hawkesbury as it would have been in the 1800s, and it is full of beautiful descriptions.  Sarah’s father has remarried and her step mother is a really hard woman.  Sarah has a relatively privileged life, although she is illiterate.  Although there are secrets in her family’s past that are well hidden.  For instance, there is the identity of the brother who went away that is a mystery.  Then there is the loss of someone in the family that rocks them all.  After this there is the discovery of someone who will shape Sarah’s future.  We watch her grow from a shy teenager into a knowing, thoughtful, generous woman.

I was not expecting the particular twists and turns to the story that did happen, but they made for a thoroughly engaging book.

This is my favourite quote from the book:

‘You could put a number on the sunrises I’d had.  It was a big number, three hundred and sixty-five for every one of the twenty-three years I’d been alive.  I was planning on having a good number more, but no one could name that number.  Not yet.  When I was dead someone would be able to say exactly what that number was.  Big or small, it was a particular number.

Every moment that passed, while I lay and watched the sunlight move round the room, was a moment that would never come back’.  (p. 282)

The books in this series are a fictional narrative of Grenville’s ancestors.  On her website there is a page that goes into great detail about her research for Sarah Thornhill.  I urge you to go there and read all about it, and after that read this book.  I really want to read the others in the series now.

Publisher: Canongate Books

Copy courtesy of the publisher.

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  • I too am finding and reading more Australian authors. Thanks to you I read my first Morris Gleitzman books this week and COULD NOT put them down. Amazing. 🙂

    • Oh Krista, thanks for telling me that. Aren’t they brilliant books, such clever writing 🙂

  • I have read the first two books you talked about but not this one yet. There is also a non-fiction book called Searching for the Secret River which sounds interesting.

    • I do agree with you Marg, I think it would be very interesting to read the non-fiction book. Thank you for stopping by and commenting 🙂

  • Janine

    Sounds like a wonderful book for a Sunday Cathy. I love your reviews. It’s so great to get a friend’s persepctive. 😉 Buona domenica xx

    • Grazie mille cara. This book would definitely qualify as a great book for a Sunday. Thanks for your compliment regarding my reviews 🙂 Buona domenica anche a te xx