Even though I only skimmed it for my Saturday book club, I was reminded of how fabulous Kate Grenville's The Lieutenant was (I read it fully a few months ago). Grenville, also the author of the similarly-set The Secret River, is extraordinary at placing us in newly-settled Australia. Slowly, but with the sense of a timely unfolding, no rushing, this story takes the reader into the life of Astronomer Daniel Rooke. Rooke is initially hoping to find Haley's Comet but instead he finds a link to humanity--his own and others'--through language. Grenville does a masterful job of underplaying tension so that it builds and builds. She doesn't over-sentimentalize the brutality of the soldiers, or Rooke's friendships, and Rooke's courage is not of a super-hero variety, nor are the others completely one-dimensional. The book is quiet, and the protagonist is quiet, but if you take the time, you will not be sorry. Everyone in the book club loved it, and I think that's a first.
In addition to the two above-mentioned books, Grenville is also the author of The Idea of Perfection, which I also really enjoyed but which, if you read without knowing the author, you would never suspect it had been written by the same. The Idea of Perfection is filled with quirky characters doing odd-ball things, and really running amok through the story. It's a completely different subject matter, not historical at all, and not really something you'd want to give as a Father's Day gift. My mother hated it. I loved it...but then, I really like strange people doing strange things.
I know some people like an author to stick to one genre--they want a story to be what they expect it to be. But I like to see an author with range. It keeps things interesting, as far as I'm concerned.