Carpentaria

Alexis Wright, Author . Atria $26 (517p) ISBN 978-1-4165-9310-2

This 2007 Miles Franklin award–winning novel is the latest masterpiece from Wright, an indigenous Australian author and land rights activist. In the town of Desperance, in northern Queensland, Australia, the question of land ownership is complicated, and every family stakes a claim. There's Normal Phantom's family, Mozzie Fishman's gang and the white settlers who control the region, but can't quite figure out how to get the native Pricklebush people to assimilate to the white man's ways. The drama unfolds with all the poetry and eclecticism of a Bob Dylan song: a drunken white mayor dismisses a murder case, a lying deaf policeman named Truthful has his way with Aboriginal women, and a brave young activist sabotages the town's mining industry. When the mythical Elias Smith, who appears in Desperance one day after “walking out of the sea,” is found murdered, a series of tragedies follows, awakening latent feuds and underlining the injustice of colonialism. Rarely does an author have such control of her words and her story: Wright's prose soars between the mythical and the colloquial. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 02/23/2009
Release date: 04/01/2009
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 439 pages - 978-1-84529-721-3
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