The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville


There is a kind of trilogy about early European settlement in Australia that Kate Grenville has written: The Secret River, The Lieutenant and Sarah Thornhill. But while Sarah Thornhill is a character in The Secret River, they are all stand alone books. The Secret River deals with the convicts sent to Australia once some kind of European set-up was in place (albeit very early days). The Lieutenant is about Lt Daniel Rooke, a sailor on the First Fleet who was sent as an astronomer, and who becomes friends with members of a local Aboriginal tribe. His key friendship is with a young girl who is as keen to learn his language as his is to learn hers.

Based loosely on the life of an actual sailor, it is mostly a compelling read. Rooke is a wuss of a character, though, and his self-awareness of his faults got a bit tedious after a while. Oddly enough, like The Secret River, I really enjoyed the first half or so, and then I found it a challenge to get to the end. I can’t explain why, I think it was me more than the book, because it is a really fabulous book.

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