I'm not certain that enough good can be said of Kate Grenville. In this second book of a trilogy devoted to the early history of Australia, she gives us the story of Daniel Rooke--fashioned loosely after the real-life character of William Dawes. William Dawes was an early student of the Aboriginal peoples and their language as well as an astronomer and all round polymath. He was expelled from Australia and went on to join forces with William Wilberforce and, eventually, to open a school for freed-slaves in Antigua.
What Ms. Grenville gives us here is a remarkable story of first contact--of trying to forge the bonds of understanding that would bridge a vast gulf between the experiences of two different cultures. She performs a remarkable feat in being able to show us the darkness of "civilization" as viewed by the aboriginal people. She also speaks of the tenderness of heart and kindness that can bridge any gap. She does all of this in language at once supple and lyrical but never purple, never overdone, always right-on cue.
If you have an interest in history, an interest in Australia, or an interest in just a cracking good story with powerfully drawn characters and (sometimes) a real bite--this is the book for you.