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Wealth means more than money in this novel. A sense of place and identity in a new land are priceless. The story of modern Australia is essentially a story of self-creation. The convicts sent from England were given the chance to receive a full pardon and start their lives over. The Secret River tells the story of William Thornhill, one of those first settlers who arrived in New South Wales as a convict and an outcast and who eventually carved out a place for himself in Australia's incipient ruling class. The structure of the novel reflects the importance of this theme. Grenville opens the novel not with William's youth in London but with his first night in New South Wales. She ends the novel with William sitting on the veranda of his grand house, Cobham Hall. He has re-written the story of his life both physically and metaphorically.