Kate Grenville (Canongate)

Kate Grenville first explored white Australia’s historical pillaging of Aboriginal territory and culture in her acclaimed book The Secret River.

She revisits this theme in her latest book The Lieutenant, the tale of gifted but socially awkward naval officer Daniel Rooke, who finds himself travelling to New South Wales as part of the first fleet.

A true ‘blue-sky thinker’, he strikes up an unlikely friendship with an Aboriginal girl called Tagaran, which eventually forces him into direct conflict with his superiors.

The book is based on a real-life diary Grenville found while researching The Secret River.

In fictionalising and expanding on this source she creates a captivating portrait of the fledgling relationship between two human beings.

Grenville seems to cast this friendship as an allegory for the more positive relationship that could have flourished between blacks and whites, had brutal colonialism not prevailed.

It’s an original angle, but The Lieutentant ultimately lacks the emotional punch of her previous work. ALISON GRINTER