The Lieutenant

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Overview

A stunning follow-up to her Commonwealth Writers’ Prize-winning book, The Secret River, Grenville’s The Lieutenant is a gripping story about friendship, self-discovery, and the power of language set along the unspoiled shores of 1788 New South Wales. As a boy, Daniel Rooke was an outsider. Ridiculed in school and misunderstood by his parents, Daniel could only hope that he would one day find his place in life. When he joins the marines and travels to Australia as a lieutenant on the First Fleet, Daniel finally ...

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The Lieutenant

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Overview

A stunning follow-up to her Commonwealth Writers’ Prize-winning book, The Secret River, Grenville’s The Lieutenant is a gripping story about friendship, self-discovery, and the power of language set along the unspoiled shores of 1788 New South Wales. As a boy, Daniel Rooke was an outsider. Ridiculed in school and misunderstood by his parents, Daniel could only hope that he would one day find his place in life. When he joins the marines and travels to Australia as a lieutenant on the First Fleet, Daniel finally sees his chance for a new beginning. As his countrymen struggle to control their cargo of convicts and communicate with nearby Aboriginal tribes, Daniel constructs an observatory to chart the stars and begin the work he prays will make him famous. But the place where they have landed will prove far more revelatory than the night sky. Out on his isolated point, Daniel comes to intimately know the local Aborigines and forges a remarkable connection with one girl that will change the course of his life. The Lieutenant is a remarkable story about the poignancy of a friendship that defies linguistic and cultural barriers, and shows one man that he is capable of exceptional courage.

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Editorial Reviews

Alison McCulloch
The Lieutenant is less a story of colonial struggle and encounter than The Secret River, and more the richly imagined portrait of a deeply introspective, and quite remarkable, man.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
Grenville (The Secret River) delivers another vivid novel about the British colonization of Australia, this one a delightful fictionalization of the life of William Dawes, a soldier-scholar who sailed from England in 1788 with the first fleet to transport British prisoners to New South Wales. Dawes's stand-in is Daniel Rooke, a loner with a passion for mathematics and astronomy who makes a living as a marine. He joins the expedition with the hope of tracking a comet that will not be visible from Great Britain, building a makeshift hut and observatory separate from the settlement (largely so he can avoid his prison guard duties). Although food is insufficient and the marines are outnumbered by the convicts, there is little unrest, but while Daniel shifts his ambitions from identifying previously unnamed stars to discovering a language and culture unknown in England, tensions escalate between the newcomers and the Aborigines, forcing Daniel to choose between duty to his king and loyalty to a land and people he has come to love. Grenville's storytelling shines: the backdrop is lush and Daniel is a wonderful creation—a conflicted, curious and endearing eccentric. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Intellectually gifted but socially awkward, Portsmouth schoolboy Daniel Rooke routinely isolates himself from his peers to explore the mechanisms of logic, arithmetic, and Greek. When a mentor recognizes his potential and introduces him to the study of astronomy, Rooke believes that he has found his place and purpose in life. He volunteers for the marines and signs on as an astronomer with the First Fleet sailing to New South Wales in 1788. After his astronomical studies falter in Australia, Rooke becomes friendly with a group of Aboriginals, attempting to learn and transcribe their language. The bond he forms with a girl named Tagaran—who reminds him of his younger sister—takes Rooke by surprise and leads to an unexpected turning point in his life. VERDICT Rooke is a genuine, sensitive protagonist, and this new novel offers a more intimate and optimistic perspective of Australian history than Grenville's award-winning epic, The Secret River. Grenville displays a graceful touch with the characters and the history that so clearly move her, and her writing sparkles with life. Highly recommended for readers of literary fiction. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/09.]—Kelsy Peterson, Johnson County Community Coll. Lib., Overland Park, KS
Kirkus Reviews
Veteran Australian author Grenville (The Secret River, 2006, etc.) poignantly depicts a man of science forced into a world shaped by action. Growing up in Portsmouth, England, Daniel Rooke is scholarly and bookish, a scientific and mathematical prodigy with minimal social skills and little interest in anything nearer to him than the stars he rapturously observes. Reaching adulthood, Daniel joins His Majesty's Marines as a commissioned officer and navigator, sailing first on a warship patrolling the colonies during the American Revolution. In 1788 he signs on in a similar capacity aboard Sirius, flagship of a fleet bound for Australia to build a penal colony. Grenville subsequently records Daniel's enthralled introduction to this new land's untamed beauty, his hopeful creation of a makeshift observatory, where he can study the mysteries of the southern skies, and his disillusioning perception of his comrade's disdainful indifference to the gentle culture of the local aborigines. An officially ordered act of aggression challenges the integrity of this paradise, destroying Daniel's utopian contentment and his chaste relationship with a beautiful native girl, Tagaran, of whom he and we learn frustratingly little. (Her age and the nature of her feelings for the compassionate Englishman would have been helpful, for starters.) Written with exemplary simplicity and festooned with gorgeous images, the narrative focuses on the meditative inner life of its main character; too many other possibilities are unexplored, too many issues unresolved. Nevertheless, readers' hearts will go out to the grieving Daniel. An involving, affecting novel that should have been even better.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781847673442
  • Publisher: Canongate Books
  • Publication date: 2/28/2009
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.17 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 8 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted November 9, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Language Is Much More Than Simply Words

    Read Kate Grenville if you haven't and like literary tales based on real lives. I have loved each of her books. Daniel Rooke in this novel is a quietly introspective man who is transformed when he discovers from the young aboriginal girl Tagaran that learning one's language is much, much more than the words.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 19, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A Writers, Writer!

    Ahhhh! Grenville is one of those authors who can captivate anyone. Whether looking for a love story, historical fiction, drama, etc., you will not be disappointed with "The Lieutenant". This book is not for Danielle Steele, Dan Brown or James Patterson fans; there is too much substance and learning for the likes of those readers (MEOW:)!) "The Lieutenant" is a literary treat; I learned a great deal about the aboriginal culture, which is quite intense. LOVED IT!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 24, 2011

    Highly recommended

    Kate Grenville is a master at composing the textures of a place and the strictures of an era. We are simply compelled as readers to empathize with the characters lifted from the pages of history. We find ourselves viewing along the sight lines of a young bookish student of astronomy. Soon enough, we find ourselves standing with him between the stilled moonlit waters of the South Pacific and the foreshore of England's farthest outpost, a land settled for generations, tide upon tide, and are not shocked by his choice nor the unraveling thereby.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 17, 2012

    Beauty of Prose

    There isn't a lot of action in this novel, but there is some and even some gore. No, not perpetrated by evil outlaws, but by the keepers of law, His Majesty's Navy, in 1788 New South Wales-- and other white intruders, but not Lieutenant Daniel Rooke.

    Based on the achievements of William Dawes, an astronomer in the British Navy, Kate Grenville has written a powerful account of a man's inner growth and understanding of humanity and the slipperiness of language. She presents portions of what I presume are the real Dawes's linguistic analyses of the natives' language. If, indeed, these are Dawes's words, he was unknowingly, the first anthropological linguist. What is amazing is that he recognized the complexity of the language of technologically backward cultures as well as the complexity of their cultures themselves.

    Today we know the tragedies of native peoples because of the work of early 20th century anthropological linguists who showed these peoples were as human as we in every way except in technology. Europeans in the 16th to 20th century thought they were of a lower order of beings. Rather than study them, they brutalized them. This is the story of an exceptionu

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    Posted March 1, 2013

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    Posted May 16, 2011

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    Posted April 20, 2012

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    Posted August 18, 2009

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