Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Living2Read Roundtable: The Language

The Secret River by Kate Grenville

What did you think of the author's use of local speech patterns...not exactly a dialect but the grammar of the less educated, I guess? Did you find it distracting or authentic? Some of the terms I never did figure out and just kept on reading. But I did have to smile when I finally realized that "baccy" meant tobacco.

Did you notice the author's convention of writing all direct conversation in italics rather than in the conventional quotation marks?

I was especially moved by the author's descriptions of the physical landscape, the weather, the skies, the sea, the dawns and sunsets. Those things haven't changed in 200 years and no doubt the author's having grown up in Sydney and returning there after living a few years in Europe gave her ample opportunity for observation. Actually I was disappointed that the narrative changed before William and Sal had their first winter on the river. After such vivid descriptions of the hot summer months, I was looking forward to reading about winter. I'm sure it would have been just as extreme and vivid.

Is there a passage of special beauty or effectiveness that you marked in your reading?

This is the third in a series of 4 blogs in this Roundtable. You can find the others on Nov. 2, Nov. 3 and Nov. 5.


  1. I liked the author's use of local speech patterns. Instead of finding it distracting, I thought it brought the story and the characters to life. There were many passages that I found very effective. One in particular was William talking about going to bed at night, hearing the rats running through the thatch, with his belly growling from nothing but watery gruel. This, and others like it, are so effective in presenting the bleak environment of William's childhood that I'm finding it difficult to read. It's an interesting story and I'll finish the book but it's a lot of harsh reality after having just read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. E

  2. I did like the author's use of the speech patterns from the beginning of the story in England when Will and Sal were young to their eventual landing in NSW. It was, at times, hard to follow but I think it did add to the authenticity of the time and the characters. That is how these people would have spoken in England and therefore when they arrived in NSW it would have been the same. I was very impressed by the research that the author would have had to do to write this novel, from the speech patterns to the landscape of the time and ofcourse to the native people. She made the aborigines so real to the reader, the way they communicated, the way they looked and interacted with each otherand with the settlers. Everything about this novel seemd so authentic to me. I would really like to read another story about this time in history and these people.