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The City Of Invention

The book reviews of UK children's author, Brian Keaney

An Atrocity In Early Australia

The Lieutenant - Kate Grenville

Kate Grenville's latest book tells the story of Daniel Rooke, an astronomer with the First Fleet sent from England to bring convicts to Botany Bay and his interaction with the aboriginal people, and in particular with a young girl called Tagaran. It's based on the historical account of William Dawes, lieutenant and astronomer with that first expedition who had a similar friendship with a young aboriginal girl.

The character of Daniel Rooke is powerfully conceived and his story is immensely human and deeply compelling. Much of the narrative focuses on his inner thoughts and on the nature of language and communication as he and Tagaran teach each other their resepctive tongues.

Like his historical conuterpart, Daniel Rooke is ordered to take part in an expedition to capture of kill some of the aboriginees as punishment for the killing of a white man and it is his reaction to these orders that forms the climax of the book.

My main reservation about this novel is that the ending is weak and feels rushed. Everything up to the climax seems to have been created with tremendous attention to detail. But the climax itself and what follows is almost glossed over so that I was left feeling a little disappointed.