When I was reading Kate Grenville’s novel The Lieutenant on Hamilton Island I was struck by her beautiful descriptions of water. So I thought I would share some of those passages.
The Lieutenant is the story of Daniel Rooke, a young soldier and astronomer who arrives in NSW on the First Fleet in 1788. It’s the story of his fascination and obsession with the night sky, and his friendship with the local Aboriginal people, particularly a girl called Tagaran, who teaches him her language. Like Grenville’s earlier novel, The Secret River, this book highlights how different things could have been in this country if all the early settlers treated indigenous Australians like Lieutenant Daniel Rooke. Here are some of Kate Grenville’s wonderful watery words:
Sailing into Sydney Harbour, page 51:
“Beyond the cliff an enormous body of quiet water curved away to the west. Sirius glided past bays lined with crescents of yellow sand and headlands of dense forest. There was something about this vast hidden harbour – bay after perfect bay, headland after shapely headland – that put Rooke in a trance. He felt he could have travelled along it forever into the heart of this unknown land. It was the going forward that was the point, not the arriving, the water creaming away under the bow, drawn so deeply along this crack in the continent that there might never be any need to stop.”
Daniel Rooke at his campsite at night, page 81:
“From his stretcher he could hear the waters of the port, the restless sound coming in the window hole. The water was never still, always in conversation with itself and with the shore. He could hear it slapping up against the rocks at the foot of the point, knew how it must look,washing foamily into crannies.”
Daniel Rooke immerses himself in the waters of Botany Bay in despair after he realises his fellow soldiers were going to behead Aboriginals they captured, page 278:
“Breaking the skin of the water and sliding beneath it was like slipping into an extension of himself. It was warm, warmer than during the day, almost the temperature of his body. It buoyed him up, lapping itself around him, making him a floating nothing, not of land, not of sea, not of this world, not of another: not Daniel Rooke who occupied the rank of second lieutenant, but a mass without a name, displacing a certain amount of Botany Bay.”