Glorious and Ugly

The Lieutenant - Kate Grenville 
Canongate, 2010 pages 307

Kate Grenville returns to the establishment of New South Wales in this wonderful novel that explores the relationship between Lieutenant Daniel Rooke and the Indigenous people.

We follow Rooke as a child in England as he tries to come to terms with being gifted but believing that he is stupid and then as he commences his career in the military. Rooke establishes himself as a loner and a man who is extremely curious.

Grenville has taken a historical fact and turned into a work of fiction. The story really works as she explores the different approaches in trying to engage the indigenous people.

The relationship between Rooke and Tagaran is the central story and it is beautifully realised. There first interaction is wonderful and you do feel like you are intruding in a way. As their friendship develops so does their curiosity about each other. How they both live, socialise and the exploration of their differences.

It is due to Rooke's isolation that when the difficulties of establishing a new settlement are brought before the reader they are contentious and confronting. The way justice is dished out, the need to show superiority and the starvation.

Grenville's writing is sparse, eloquent and precise. Each word is perfectly placed and it is just a joy to read.

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