Having failed to read a single book for Orange January and amid the announcement of this year's longlist for the newly renamed Women's Prize for Fiction I have spent the day on Sunday knitting and listening to 'Sarah Thornhill' by Kate Grenville. I just discovered on her website that this is the third in a trilogy of books about the early years of european settlement in Australia.
Written in the first person it tells the story of Sarah, youngest daughter in the family of an ex-convict who has made his fortune and provides for his family in relative comfort and security. Her childhood crush on the handsome Jack Langland becomes a doomed love affair and her life ends up following a path that starts out as an escape from her parents but becomes a life she freely chooses and values. But there are dark secrets buried in her family's past that eventually come to light. The story vividly encapsulates the troubled relations between the incomers and the aboriginal people, but it is also about families and what makes them, what binds them together and what divides them. Her voice is very immediate, not an old woman recounting the long ago but a young and vibrant character still troubled by the events that have plagued her growing up. I don't want to give too much of the plot away as there are many twists and turns to the events.
Kate Grenville's book The Idea of Perfection was my favourite from last year. Her stories seem to capture very well the thing that is distinct about Australia, not just the unforgiving environment but the impact it has has on the people who went there. She doesn't shy away from dealing with both the tensions between those transported and those who considered themselves true pioneers and the racial tensions that ensued from their invasion. Another wonderful book.
(I confess not from the TBR pilebut picked out so I could listen and knit, am not allowing myself to start a new project until Dunk's jumper is finished.)