BookBrowse Reviews The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Lieutenant

by Kate Grenville

The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Sep 2009, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2010, 320 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


A remarkable story, set in the early days of Australian colonization, about the poignancy and emotional power of a friendship that defies linguistic and cultural barriers

Loosely based on the notebooks of astronomer William Dawes, The Lieutenant split our readers into two distinct groups. About two-thirds of those who reviewed it loved it, but a few of the remainder were considerably less enthusiastic:

Fans say...
In this beautifully written and delightful novel, Grenville seamlessly weaves historical fact together with a multitude of philosophical questions in order to create a vivid and compelling story (Eileen P). The book explores the huge themes of friendship, the conflict between cultures, and courage. As one man discovers himself he finds that he has it within him to follow his conscience no matter what the cost. All intertwined with the magic of language, mathematics, and astronomy (Maryanne K).

If you are interested in the Aboriginals and how the first penal colony was settled in New South Wales in the 1780's, The Lieutenant is the book worth reading. Although it is fiction loosely based on a real person, the rich details of daily life, conflicts, and diversity of language drives the story leaving its readers to want more (Marion C). The historical background adds a new dimension to a story you may think you know. Questions of culture and morality left me thinking about this book long after I finished it. Book clubs will enjoy this as will readers who liked The Forgotten Garden or Olive Kitteridge (Susan B). Of particular interest to me was the way in which the author portrayed the young lieutenant's burgeoning preoccupation with the intricacies of the aboriginal language and culture. I very much liked Grenville's use of language and am looking forward to reading an earlier book of hers, The Secret River next (Susan K).

Kate Grenville has a new fan! Her simple and straightforward style belies a depth and complexity of both story and characters. This is not only a novel of science and exploration, but also of discovery - discovery of place and peoples and language, discovery of self and purpose. (Madeline M-S). This was a hard book to finish because I found myself lost in thought and not reading. A beautiful book (Sally G).

But some feel that...
The story is lacking in purpose, there seems to be no theme nor any successful conclusion (Margo A).  I think this is a good book, well worth reading, but feel the author missed the opportunity to develop it into a great book with a more powerful story (Jean T); not enough time is spent on any of the elements of the story. I was left wishing for a deeper examination of the characters and events (Katherine Y).

The bottom line
The Lieutenant revisits the same period Grenville wrote about in The Secret River (2005), the first years of the Port Jackson penal colony, but this is a more compact, leaner work.  Although based on the diaries of William Dawes this is not your typical historical fiction - Grenville is as much, if not more, focused on observing the mind of her protagonist than she is in exploring the vista he beholds.  As we inhabit his mind, his moral dilemmas become ours, and we share his isolation.  Written with a poet's sensibility, this is an adventure into the nature of language and culture and of how people can connect across seemingly impenetrable barriers.

Read all the reviews


Above: The Charlotte, one of the eleven ships in the First Fleet, at Portsmouth before departure in May 1787.
Right: A studio photograph of a convict showing the convict uniform and the use of leg irons. c.1880s.

Interesting Link
Kate Grenville talking about The Lieutenant.

Incidentally, this being an Australian book, the title should arguably be pronounced "leftenant" (British and Australian English), not "lewtenant" which is American English!

This review was originally published in October 2009, and has been updated for the September 2010 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.



This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    My Name Is Leon
    by Kit De Waal
    Kit de Waal's striking debut, My Name is Leon, has inspired this big, long, complicated question: ...
  • Book Jacket: New People
    New People
    by Danzy Senna
    Danzy Senna has spent virtually her entire writing career exploring the complicated intersections of...
  • Book Jacket: Hunger
    Hunger
    by Roxane Gay
    In this penetrating and fearless memoir, author Roxane Gay discusses her battle with body acceptance...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt

Cruel Beautiful World examines the intricate, infinitesimal distance between seduction and love, loyalty and duty.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Happiness
    by Heather Harpham

    A love story that follows a one-of-a-kind family through twists of fate that require nearly unimaginable choices.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Hame

Hame by Annalena McAfee

A rich, sultry novel about a young American fleeing a crumbling marriage for a remote Scottish island.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A F Out O W

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.