What the Critics Say

Australian reviews:

“Sequels are tricky: they must cater for newcomers as well as for those who enjoyed the earlier book.  Grenville clears this hurdle confidently in the first couple of pages of Sarah Thornhill… The pages describing the marriage of convenience between people who have been brought together by necessity are among the best in Grenville’s book, depicted with sure brush strokes…a strong and disturbing narrative.”

Sydney Morning Herald, Andrew Riemer


“This is a beautiful book, one that pulses with insight and compassion… Grenville’s descriptions are a delicate fretwork of words that have the extraordinary ability to make scenes that, in anyone else’s hands, might seem drab and commonplace, newly discovered.  Grenville manages to find a voice that is simple and plain, yet strangely lyrical… Not only is Sarah Thornhill gorgeously written, but the love story at its heart is as real and true as it is unexpected.  This is a novel that will be treasured by generations to come.  It is that rare book that manages to wholly engage both head and heart.  Grenville has done a splendid job.

The Canberra Times, Diane Stubbings


"The voice of illiterate Sarah, in which the whole story is told, is Grenville's great triumph, wonderfully consistent in its slight roughnesses of grammar and diction ...The book is a moving double love story - of a wild, romantic love and a slower, more mature, developing variety -  an imaginatively convincing recreation of history and a celebration of country tenderly and beautifully observed."

Katharine England, Adelaide Advertiser 

“In Sarah Thornhill there are two poignant and delicately rendered love stories. Romantic love, however, is not the point of this novel. Coming to maturity, Sarah confronts the crimes of her father...The novel is simply and beautifully narrated. Grenville’s vivid fiction performs as testimony, memory and mourning within a collective post-colonial narrative.”

The Australian, Stella Clarke.


"Kate Grenville's Lilian's Story is one of the books by which other Australian fiction is judged - a stormy sensuous evocation of abuse and madness. Dark Places is its formidable successor. The Idea of Perfection is a superb representation of life that might look humdrum from a distance. Her new book, Sarah Thornhill, is a cleanly written, sometimes poignant re-imagining of early colonial life...it should satisfy the troops of readers who come to Grenville for the blood and drama of her imagining of Australia's colonial origins...Sarah Thornhill is a moving piece of fiction and Kate Grenville is everywhere alive to the shadows and subtleties of family and putatively of national inheritance....there are plenty of things in it that are powerfully realised and touch the heart...she is a gift of a writer and her work rustles with life."

Peter Craven, The Age

“Grenville is second only to Nobel-winner Patrick White as the most set Australian author on tertiary reading lists.  The Secret River is the most frequently set text in English courses… like Tim Winton, she tells fast-paced but nationally significant yarns for a wide readership…  Her publishers are doing her no favours with the literary men: the cover of Sarah Thornhill is a dreamy Mills and Boon-style picture of a young woman in period costume looking out across a river.  But the story is pacy and provocative and carefully constructed.

The Australian, Miriam Cosic


“Grenville has completed her magnificent Colonial Trilogy to popular and critical acclaim….Grenville’s treatment of young love and intimacy is so touching it almost renders the early 19th-century setting irrelevant. Almost… In this novel she reminds us of the potency of first love, gives voice to the struggle and endurance of first-generation Australian woman and expresses sorrow over the dispossession of land from Aboriginals by settlers.”

The West Australian, Claire Williams


“Unashamedly romantic, Sarah Thornhill will appeal to lovers of colonial Australian fiction.  Its themes of young love lost and the destructive power of secrets, and Grenville’s clear writing, will also make it attractive to younger readers.”

Bookseller and Publisher Magazine, Fiona Stager

"Kate Grenville is one of Australia's finest and most celebrated writers.  Her latest novel is proof she deserves all the accolades... Sarah Thornhill is an Australian story.  A great one."

Weekend Bookworm, Warren Boland

"If you want to be a great novelist, write about great things.  Grenville does, undertaking the hard research, reflection and work of imagining in fiction how traumatic parts of our human story have played out... It's a case of the hard job well done. Grenville approaches the historical research task meticulously, with the utmost seriousness."

The Canberra Times, Christine Wallace

"Sarah Thornhill is an instantly warmer, less wistful book [than The Secret River].Grenville gives Sarah a likeable, robust voice; not quite historical but engaging the reader with historically rooted urgency. Grenville's great strength is her sensual fleshing-out of the past, the Hawkesbury's lovely "surge and bubble". Her vision of our colonial history is at once compelling and fable-like, as she writes contemporary white self-knowledge back into it.  Like its predecessors, Sarah Thornhill will be welcomed by many readers as just the story we need now."

 The Monthly, Delia Falconer


"Grenville transforms our history into something immediate and tangible, which gives readers the chance to enter our shared past.  Sarah Thornhill is written from Sarah's point of view; her voice is strong and true.  The rhythms of her speech alone take this novel a long way. Grenville has an ability to make you see landscape afresh and to experience something of the fear and pleasure that such wild beauty aned isolation evoked in the settlers...the final sequence is starkly poetic. Grenville's extraordinary trilogy is a major achievement in Australian literature." 

Australian Book Review, Sophie Cunningham

"Sarah is a compelling character and Grenville occupies her skin with conviction. This  is a novel of irresistible depth and richness.  Every page is a revelation."

SAM magazine

Overseas reviews:

"Grenville's Early Australia trilogy comes to a brilliant conclusion with this novel.  Full of fascinating characters, this accessible novel will appeal to a broad audience."

Ellen Loughran, Booklist (UK)

"A compelling first-person narrative..."

The Guardian, (UK) Robert McCrum


"The power with which Kate Grenville evokes places and people is so remarkable that it was no surprise to discover that Sarah Thornhill's story is as gripping and illuminating and her father's was."

Diana Athill

"It is with marvellous vividness and clarity that Grenville evoke's Sarah's world - Sarah, a character of great spirit and determination."

The Guardian, (UK)Belinda McKeon.

"As Sarah Thornhill cannot read or write, Grenville has to perform an act of ventriloquy similar top that of Peter Carey in True History of the Kelly Gang, but Sarah's voice has an attractive personality and proves adept at describing the landcape and those who struggle to survive in its unforgiving beauty." 

The Telegraph, (UK) Mark Sanderson

"Grranville's great skill as a writer is to take the best of biographical details and spint them into something of intricate moral complexity."

The Telegraph (UK), Viv Groskop

"A book of tangled histories...Grenville brilliant portrays the socially superior wife undermining the brooding patriarch...this powerful saga of colliding histories blends romance and honesty.  It is particularly resonant for Irish readers, not least because of the Irish emigrants who shaped Australia, but also becuase in Ireland we know plenty about tangled histories."

Independent (Ireland),Mary Shine Thompson

"Grenville's early books, Lilian's Story and Dark Places, are outstanding works that readers should track down.  Her historical novels are important quests that go beyond art: they are actively opening up the past...she knows how to tell a story and has no difficulty in creating a powerful sense of the open spaces of Australia."

The Irish Times, Eileen Battersby

"Queen Elizabeth keeps her views of literature well guarded, but does read and enjoy the Commonwealth Writers' prize winners, especally historical fiction by Kate Grenville, Lloyd Jones and Lawrence Hill."

Newsday, (US)Sarah Weinman

"Sarah Thornhill is both brilliant fiction and illuminating personal history."

The Independent (UK), Arifa Akbar


"A beautifully written novel."

We Love This Book (US)

"Grenville's description of the harshly beautiful Australian landscape is unforgettable, more poetry than prose...   and the tragic story will haunt you for a long time.  Getting to grips with Australians' complex history is a lot easier with a writer as sensitive as Grenville to point the way."

The Guardian audiobooks (UK), Sue Arnold

"A graceful, passionate story of love, loss and treacherous family histories, written in beautifully measured prose."

Marie Claire (UK)

Sarah Thornhill provides a wrenching conclusion to a tough-hearted trilogy about the colonizing of Australia. Grenville constructs a plot with as many twists as the river that runs through the Thornhill's property. This is a novel that can't be easily categorised - exuberant, cruel, surprising, a triumphant evocation of a period and a people filled with both courage and ugliness.

New York Times, Susann Cokal