Thursday, 18 June 2015

The Secret River: Book versus Miniseries

The ABC has just screened the first part of a new TV miniseries The Secret River. The ABC webpage describes it as "based on Kate Grenville's multi-award-winning bestselling novel, the two part mini-series The Secret River tells the deeply personal story of Will and Sal Thornhill, early convict colonists in New South Wales. Screens on Sunday 14 June and Sunday 21 June at 8.30pm on ABC".

The writer of this entry has read both the novel The Secret River and the non-fiction book about the research and writing of the novel Searching for the Secret River, both held in the JCU Library.

The miniseries part one is good in this writer's opinion; it is a realistic and balanced portrayal of humans in the era of the penal colony and the Rum Corp (read a  review on the Guardian website). Comparing the TV series to reading both books -and reading both enhances the novel- is unfair. The novel has been awarded many prizes, and in 2012 the First Tuesday Bookclub on the ABC nominated it as one of the top ten Australian books to read before you die.

The book's strength is it starts earlier in the life of the Thornhills by opening in England. This allows more sympathy for the family to develop from the description of the social and physical world they existed in due to their social class. Once you read the background about the research, you learn that Kate Grenville based this on her ancestors and the story becomes more alive. Grenville traveled to places in London that are in the story like the apprentice hall for Thames River boatman. She also portrays aspects of Aboriginal society as accurately as could be done via the restrictions of the storyline focusing from the English convict-settlers' viewpoints. You appreciate after reading the books, how well put together the miniseries is in balancing historical accuracy, the novel's storyline, and fitting it to the television format.

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