Friday, 10 January 2014

The Secret River

Image sourced from here
This book kicked me. I was sitting there thinking about the human condition, and why we are such scared arseholes, and a baby chicken jumps up next to me, snuggles down and wraps her head around into my lap. Some times we aren't I guess. Some times chickens, who are a bit naive, love you to bits. So I think this book should be sold/lent/issued with a chicken. So you have something fluffy to love you while you read it.

That being said, the book was great. It was a book that tells you the story of William Thornhill, who was born into extreme poverty in London. He turns to being a thief but is given a chance at life by being taken on as a waterman's (boatman's) apprentice on the Thames. He marries the girl he loves, and everything is going well. Until it is not. Like so many people in the 1800s. He is caught thieving again, sentenced to death but reprieved by being sent to the colony of New South Wales.

I feel like I have spoiled half the book for you. But THIS is where the book begins. This book tells the story of so many men and women that came out to Australia in the 1800s. They were shipped from the biggest city in the world to the most remote place on earth. And they survived, and prospered. As a great, great, great, great granddaughter of one of them, that's astounding, and I'm glad they did.

What is the thing that makes me emotional though, is not that part. It's what white Australians did to survive. That's the thing that kicks me in the guts. That's the thing, as an Australian that I know is creeping up on me from every crevice of this book. I understand. I understand the terror. The fear of the unknown. The fear for your family. But it does not excuse at all the horror we unleashed again, and again, and again, and still again even now.

There is still a division in our country. We should be better. We are slightly, but not at all enough. The right calls this a guilt agenda. I do not feel guilty for what my convict ancestor did or didn't do in 1820 or so as he didn't know better. I feel guilty as educated people in 201...4 we are doing terrible things still.

This book was brilliant and humbling. And if you don't know much about the very first settlers to Australia from Britain, it's not a bad way to learn.

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