Published: September 2008
Kate Grenville's novel The Secret River moved and exhilarated many people when it was first published in 2005. Readers marvelled at the subtlety of its language, and the power of Grenville's story-telling. And they recognised that this simple tale of a poor convict family settling on the banks of the Hawkesbury River in the early nineteenth century represented a landmark moment in Australian fiction. Grenville had taken the novel to the frontier of European settlement and written a profoundly original and disturbing work about what happened there. Searching for the Secret River is the extraordinary story of how Kate Grenville came to write her award-winning novel. It all begins with her ancestor Solomon Wiseman, transported to New South Wales for the term of his natural life, but who later became a wealthy man and built his colonial mansion on the Hawkesbury. Increasingly obsessed with his story, Grenville pursues him from Sydney to London and back, and then up the Hawkesbury itself. Slowly she begins to realise she must write about him, and begins to discover what kind of book she will write. Grenville opens the door and invites the reader into her writing room, and tells us about how this novel was formed, the research she did, the false starts she made and the frustrations she experienced. Searching for the Secret River is a great book about the writing of a great novel.