This is a refreshing look at Aboriginal and colonial clashes. this time the colonisers have unexpected origins and the reader is torn between levels of sympathy with the protagonist's predicament, background and aspirations and total lack of comprehension for a culture so different in a land so far away and contempt and loathing for most of the protagonists peers. The tale takes a very nasty turn after the women and children begin to tentatively and respectfully reach out.
- Grenville handles this issue with intelligence and wisdom. Not only does she put a human face on this dark past, she makes you wonder what would you do if you were put in the same situation, living in a strange land where all the rules have been thrown out the window and the only way you can convince your wife that this slice of paradise is worth holding onto is to make her world safe by any means possible. Are Thornhill's actions logical and understandable? Do you think that this situation would be true of the time and his reactions to it, does Sal seem a believable persona for the times?
3. What constitutes crime and how should criminals be punished?, at what point should a man fight for what he believes in?; when does land ownership become a right and not a provilage?do you have a right to defend your property by force?; and how should one handle cultures in collusion?
4. Grenville has depicted this book without contemporary moralising or political correctness therefore the only real moral centre of the book is Blackwood, whose refrain throughout is "Give a little, take a little, that's the only way" Is this correct? Or is there no moral basis at all?
5. Is there an inevitability that the two cultures couldn't live together? There was a chance to learn but fear took over, the native Australian culture just couldn't have absorbed the settlers comfortably, do you think that's the case?
6. Do we have difficulty in facing our history of colonialism and indigenous society? Does the emerging conservative belief of Australian history by various political groups colour the way The Secret river is read? Do we find it easier to view history as an inevitability rather than a choice, and does this effect how the indigenous population is viewed today?