A Novel

Book - 2009
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Hailed as a "literary sensation" by The New York Times Book Review , Carpentaria is the luminous award-winning novel by Australian Aboriginal writer and activist Alexis Wright.

Alexis Wright employs mysticism, stark reality, and pointed imagination to re-create the land and the Aboriginal people of Carpentaria .

In the sparsely populated northern Queensland town of Desperance, loyalties run deep and battle lines have been drawn between the powerful Phantom family, leaders of the Westend Pricklebush people, and Joseph Midnight's renegade Eastend mob, and their disputes with the white officials of neighboring towns. Steeped in myth and magical realism, Wright's hypnotic storytelling exposes the heartbreaking realities of Aboriginal life.

By turns operatic and everyday, surreal and sensational, the novel teems with extraordinary, larger-than-life characters. From the outcast savior Elias Smith, religious zealot Mossie Fishman, and murderous mayor Bruiser to activist Will Phantom and Normal Phantom, ruler of the family, these unforgettable characters transcend their circumstances and challenge assumptions about the downtrodden "other." Trapped between politics and principle, past and present, the indigenous tribes fight to protect their natural resources, sacred sites, and above all, their people.

Already an international bestseller, Carpentaria has garnered praise from around the world.
Publisher: New York : Atria Books, 2009.
Edition: 1st Atria Books hardcover ed.
ISBN: 9781416593102
Characteristics: x, 517 p. ; 24 cm.


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quagga Sep 19, 2009

In the far north of Australia, in the Gulf of Carpentaria, the tiny town of Desperance doesn't appear on any map. That's because the name was officially changed to Masterton - but any road signs are destroyed as soon as they are erected. The white townfolk are set in their beliefs and don't care for change of any kind. Racism is as much a way of life for them as swatting mosquitos and sweating in the oppressive heat.

Aboriginal folk live in two camps on either side of the town proper, where the white folk dwell. Desperance is the closest town to a giant mine newly built by a multinational corporation. The issues of land rights, environmental concerns and employment opportunities are central to the story. The Aboriginal families have been feuding for 400 years; Norm Phantom and Joseph Midnight are the elder patriarchs of either side.

Norm's son, Will Phantom, is one of the main opponents of the mine and does what he can to sabotage its construction. He has also fallen in love with Joseph's grand-daughter, Hope, which causes his father to disown him. Will has to abandon Hope and their young son when mine officials are hot on his trail, but his dream is always to reunite with them. Meanwhile, the mining company resorts to dastardly deeds of retaliation.

Aboriginal author Wright was awarded the Miles Franklin Literary Award for this lyrical and sweeping saga. I found it a bit difficult to get into because the narrative is so very nonlinear, but by the time I was 100 pages in, I couldn't put it down.


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