Book Review- Wanting


Richard Flanagan- Wanting (2008)

 Wanting is an award-winning novel:

  • Winner of the 2009 QLD Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction
  • Winner of the 2008 WA Premier’s Literary Award for Fiction
  • 2008 New Yorker Notable Book
  • 2008 Library Journal Notable Book
  • 2008 London Observer Book of the Year

Richard Flanagan is a Tasmanian born author who has published various award winning novels such as The Sound of One Hand Clapping and the The Unknown Terrorist. He was also co-writer for the renowned screenplay, Australia starring Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman.

 The main theme of Wanting is a ‘yearning for something more.’

Flanagan has delved into his lands’ history and brought to life the story of a young Aboriginal girl named Mathinna. Although, he makes it clear this story is not a historical novel it is easy to see how the problems of today stem from those early white invasions.

In 1839, Mathinna becomes an orphan within her Van Diemans Land tribe. A white ‘protector’ monitors their tribe in hope of civilizing the natives.

Upon visiting the tribe, great explore John Franklin and his wife Lady Jane take on the challenge of proving that a ‘savage’ can be civilized and so they adopt Mathinna. (Savage in this sense is someone who succumbs to his passions).

As a psychologist, my heart went out to Mathinna and the lack of insight the adults around her displayed in terms of her emotional wellbeing. She struggles to meet the civil expectations of her new white family as her aboriginal origins are strongly implanted. Ironically, it is these traits that draw the attraction of many whites yet they desire her free nature to be inhibited.

At a similar time in another place, great novelist Charles Dickens is starring in a play which is becoming more and more a reflection of his life. Lady Jane enlists Dickens to put an end to the scandalous rumours that her husband’s expedition ended in cannibalism.

There are many historical and political themes that underlie this story, and I recommend it to anyone who wants a better insight into the damage that the white population has done to the indigenous people of Australia and why several generations later they are still not at peace.

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