This is the book I read over Christmas during my extended holidays from work. It has taken me quite a while to write down my opinion of the book simply because I wasn't sure how I felt about it. I am one of those people who have to talk through my opinions. It helps me form them, much to my husband's dismay. Speaking my thoughts out loud forces me to defend them. They become more solid. This is a major advantage of my book group although they may think I suffer from multiple personality disorder. I frequently switch sides of an argument.
Back to the book: The Secret River is set in the late 1800s and begins in Victorian London. It tells the story of a man who marries into a middle class family and looks all set for a long happy life with his wife whom he loves and cherishes. His father-in-law inconsiderately dies. Their situation quickly deteriorates into poverty and the man commits a crime. He is punished and like many criminals in that day and age, he is sent to Australia to serve out his sentence. He gets to take his family which has now grown to include 2 children with him. Upon arriving in Australia, he and his wife begin to build their life back, although she dreams of one day returning to London.
This is a heartbreaking story. And told vividly. The accounts of the London streets filled with sewage and rubbish were fabulously rich. The descriptions of the Australian landscape before the Sydney Opera House defined it are so detailed, my mind's eye could imagine it. The historical details of the settlement of Sydney were fascinating.
I have a few complaints. If the man loved his wife soooooo much why did he do everything she didn't want him to do. It left her completely powerless. He was one selfish husband and I had no respect for him.
The other complaint was the ending. It felt rushed. A horrible thing happens (I won't spoil the plot) and then....it ends with everything all nice and tidy. Hmmmmmm, don't quite believe that the characters would have it all end this way. I know stories have to end (we wouldn't be able to carry around biblical size books) but this required a bit more thought.
I enjoyed the book and whilst it didn't change my life and affect me spiritually (like the Kite Runner or 5 People you Meet in Heaven), it was a nice easy beach read, what I like to call good brain candy.