Thursday, July 11, 2013

Review: Sarah Thornhill

Growing up in rural Australia, Sarah Thornhill, daughter of a transported convict, pursues her childhood sweetheart Jack. But Jack's mother was a native Australian, he has "black" blood. While this makes no difference to Sarah, it does to the rest of her family. Different cultures and family secrets try their relationship. Sarah fights for a future with Jack when all the forces of her family and community are against it. The best thing about this book is undeniably the setting. The Thornhills live in mid-nineteenth century rural Australia.

It is stark and unforgiving territory. White Australians have all of the anxieties and concerns of a colonial population. Native Australians are reeling from the brutalities of white colonists. It is a fascinating world, and one that Grenville portrays beautifully. That said, this book was too much of a standard romance novel to really speak to me. There are some fascinating themes, but they revolve to heavily around Sarah and Jack's relationship. I would have like a broader focus.

The most important takeaway? Grenville reminds readers that we have a collective responsibility for the past, one that a new generation cannot simply erase.

Kate Grenville, Sarah Thornhill (Grove, 2012) ISBN: 9780802120243 

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