The narrative of The Secret River is something we already know a lot about: convicts transported to Sydney, where they are eventually pardoned, and encouraged to settle what seemed to be an empty continent. For these new free settlers it comes as a surprise to find the land they claim for their own, is already home to mysterious, dark-skinned people who appear and disappear from the forests around them. Ignorant to the beliefs and traditions of these people, the Aboriginals seem to them to be no more than naked savages.
As someone who has close ties with Australia, I am fascinated by the personal stories of those early settlers and Aboriginals alike. Clashing cultures, and many just trying to do the best they can with what they have.
If you have ever been to the Hawkesbury River in NSW, you’ll know what a spectacular location it is. Whenever I feel a little ‘homesick’ for that part of the world, I flick through these pages and I am once more transported – but not for the term of my natural life (well – not just yet anyway).