Thursday, 21 May 2009

The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville

This story follows the life of Daniel Rooke who was born in England in 1762. He is an odd little boy who doesn't quite fit in at school. His brilliance is recognized at a young age and he wins a scholarship to Portsmouth Naval Academy where he trains as an Astronomer for the British Navy. Within the Navy he finds that his unique abilities and intelligence are the keys to helping him finally fit in.
In 1787 he sails to New South Wales, Australia as part of the Marines guarding the first re-settlement of convict prisoners. Along with his mathematical abilities, Rooke is also adept at learning languages. He establishes a rapport with a young aboriginal girl, Tagaran, who attempts not only to teach him her language, but to understand the ways of her people.
It was a nice book, but it left me feeling kinda flat. I kept wanting Rooke to walk off into the bush with Tagaran and her people and to leave the Marines. I didn't like the treatment of the aboriginals and the attitudes toward them. It was their country to begin with. I did enjoy the discussion of the stars and the differing constellations in the southern hemisphere. Tagaran's approach to teaching her language was more a 'whole language' approach than a vocabulary listing. Rookes insite of how Tagaran is teaching him were wonderful. Knowing that this book is based on the real lives of William Dawes and Patyegarang, I understand that Ms. Grenville had to stay within the known facts. I found myself wondering that if there had been more men like Dawes involved in this venture then perhaps there might have been better relationships and understanding with the aboriginal population.
If you are looking for a nice read about settlement in Australia, then this is the book for you, but if you are a history buff and love the fine details, then go directly to the source materials.
The sailing ship on the front cover bugs me. Its stuck there between the two headlands and it looks like its going to ram the coast to the left. eeks. Anyone with sailing experience that can allay my fears of the imminent collision?

1 comment:

Marie said...

Nice review. I have this book on my to-be-read pile. I'm not a great history buff; it sounds like one I'll enjoy.

Sorry, can't help you with the cover. I'm a landlubber.