Reader reviews and comments on The Lieutenant, plus links to write your own review.

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The Lieutenant

by Kate Grenville

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

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Phil Cruttwell (08/15/11)

Could do better
The ingredients were here for a truly great novel. And I enjoyed the story and found myself caring about the main characters and the dilemma that faced them. But it felt to me that the writer was in a hurry...in fact it felt like the script for a film where everything is fitted into a 90 minute slot. How much better the story would have been with some space and time for development.
Power Reviewer Cloggie Downunder (02/03/11)

A moving Aussie tale
Kate Grenville’s latest novel, “The Lieutenant” is a beautifully crafted work. The Lieutenant in question, Daniel Rooke, is based on William Dawes, a soldier in His Majesty’s Marine Force on the First Fleet which arrived in Sydney Cove in 1788. Dawes accompanied the First Fleet as an astronomer, to record the predicted reappearance of a comet in late 1788/early 1789. The story is thus based on historical events: Grenville fills in the blanks of everyday life around these events in a way that makes the historical facts a pleasure to assimilate. Whilst waiting alone in his observatory for the comet to appear, the lieutenant interacts with the indigenous population, his intention being to make a study of the native language. This interaction with the natives, in general, and his friendship with a young girl, in particular, appears to be a pivotal point in Rooke’s life. Subsequent events prompt Rooke to re-evaluate his priorities and lead him to the conclusion that “…the service of humanity and the service of His Majesty were not congruent”.
Grenville’s skill is such that we cannot help but feel empathy with the young Rooke from the very first page. Her characters are realistic, although Silk is perhaps not what he first appears to be. The dialogue takes us very effectively back to the 18th century. Grenville conveys the feel of the place and the time with consummate ease.
This is a novel about language and communication, solitude and loneliness, duty and integrity. Grenville explores friendship, truth, a man’s place in the universe. And what is worth risking one’s career or even one’s life for. The end leaves a lump in the throat.
What a pleasure this novel was to read. Let us hope for more from Kate Grenville soon.
Jean (09/23/09)

Good, but I wanted more!
This book was my introduction to the writings of Kate Grenville, and I must say I am delighted to have finally made her acquaintance and plan to read more of her work. I thoroughly enjoyed the lush, lyrical power of her descriptive prose. However, I finished this book wanting more, wishing that she had explored the weightier themes more deeply. 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.
Diane (09/23/09)

The Lieutenant
Daniel Rooke was a lonely child, misunderstood by not only other children, but by his parents as well. He found comfort in books and astronomy. As an adult, he prefers solitude yet surprisingly he is able to form strong relationships with his fellow marines.

Rooke forges an unlikely friendship with a young Aboriginal girl, and their lives are forever changed.

I was so deeply moved by the treatment of the Aboriginal people.

The Lieutenant is a touching story, beautifully written, and thought provoking. The narrative was engaging, and my only complaint was that I wished the story was longer. Historical fiction fans should enjoy this book. I had not read Grenville's earlier book, The Secret River, but plan to do so now.

Recommended.
Susan (09/23/09)

The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville
This book is a great read. Kate Grenville writes with a prose of words that become a visual and mental picture. 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 (09/23/09)

The Lieutenant
A quiet, thought-provoking account of a socially inept loner (based on the actual lieutenant William Dawes), The Lieutenant explores a host of questions: what is friendship; to whom should one be loyal; are the values one is brought up with necessarily good for all societies, and if not - what to do about it? 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.
Sally (09/23/09)

The Lieutenant by Kate Grenville
A quiet, thought provoking book that was so well written and interesting. A story based loosely on a William Dawes. The Lieutenant is the story of a young man that never quite belonged as he was a genius and maybe autistic. I found him shy, naive, and innocent even after encountering war. After the war he ended on a ship taking prisoners to New South Wales. It is here that the real story takes place and Kate Grenville writes a clean and clear story of the behavior of humans.

This was a hard book to finish because I found myself lost in thought and not reading. A beautiful book.
Ruth Harris (09/23/09)

The Lieutenant
Kate Grenville does an excellent job of writing in a 1800's Englishman's voice. Daniel Rooke and others travel from England to New South Wales. Daniel, a student of math, astronomy and languages, goes to study weather and the nighttime skies. Though an outsider in a strange land he finds himself feeling, for the first time in his life, as if he belongs. He befriends the natives and tries to learn their language, their ways. The story is based on historical records but doesn't read as such. Interesting story written well.
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