Based loosely on Grenville's own family history, The Secret River follows William Thornhill and his family as they adjust to a new life in the wilds of the 1806 New South Wales colony.
Unlike most historical fiction writers, Grenville does not imbue her characters with modern sensibilities in a historical setting. Thornhill, an illiterate Thames bargeman, is sentenced to transportation after being convicted of smuggling. He is very much of his time and place. Culturally sensitive, he is not. Grenville manages to write a convincing portrayal of a simple man
who is confronted with an utterly strange country and even stranger native people. Ultimately, Thornhill faces a choice: will he commit a terrible act of violence to make a place for his family in this new world, or will he let them be forced off the land they have worked so hard to acquire? /roslyn