Summary and book reviews of Carpentaria by Alexis Wright

Carpentaria

A Novel

By Alexis Wright

Carpentaria
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Hardcover: Apr 2009,
    528 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2010,
    528 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Sarah Sacha Dollacker

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About this Book

Book Summary

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.

Chapter 1



From time immemorial

A NATION CHANTS, BUT WE KNOW YOUR STORY ALREADY.

THE BELLS PEAL EVERYWHERE.

CHURCH BELLS CALLING THE FAITHFUL TO THE TABERNACLE WHERE THE GATES OF HEAVEN WILL OPEN, BUT NOT FOR THE WICKED. CALLING INNOCENT LITTLE BLACK GIRLS FROM A DISTANT COMMUNITY WHERE THE WHITE DOVE BEARING AN OLIVE BRANCH NEVER LANDS. LITTLE GIRLS WHO COME BACK HOME AFTER CHURCH ON SUNDAY, WHO LOOK AROUND THEMSELVES AT THE HUMAN FALLOUT AND ANNOUNCE MATTER-OFFACTLY, ARMAGEDDON BEGINS HERE.

The ancestral serpent, a creature larger than storm clouds, came down from the stars, laden with its own creative enormity. It moved graciously -- if you had been watching with the eyes of a bird hovering in the sky far above the ground. Looking down at the serpent's wet body, glistening from the ancient sunlight, long before man was a creature who could contemplate the next moment in time. It came down those billions of years ago, to crawl on its heavy belly, all around the wet ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
This reading group guide for Carpentaria by Alexis Wright includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Introduction
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 Eastsend mob—and their disputes with the white citizens of the neighboring towns. When the ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

Full of larger-than-life characters and prose that channels the rhythms of Aboriginal speech, Wright's book is anything but mainstream. Wright's lyrical prose, bright characters, and mythical elements create a great patchwork of an original novel - one that will enchant a variety of readers.   (Reviewed by Sarah Sacha Dollacker).

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Media Reviews
Kirkus Reviews

A latter-day epic that speaks, lyrically, to the realities and aspirations of aboriginal life.

Publishers Weekly.

Rarely does an author have such control of her words and her story: Wright's prose soars between the mythical and the colloquial.

Library Journal

Wright's award-winning second novel (after Plains of Promise) offers in Phantom one of the most compelling literary protagonists since Odysseus and will surely stand as a masterpiece of modern English-language literature.

The Daily Telegraph (UK

By the end of the book you'll be seduced by its Dreamtime logic, and probably persuaded by its passionate political and ecological message. It's not an easy read, but if you want to know the real Australia, persevere.

The Guardian (UK)

If you want to sample the writing at its best, look at the novel's eighth chapter, an astonishing tour de force in its own right.

The Age (Australia)

Carpentaria is a big book, more than 500 pages, big enough to enter a world, to feel as if you once lived in a town called Desperance.

Sydney Morning Herald

Wright breaks all the rules of grammar and syntax to sweep us along on a great torrent of language that thrills and amazes with its inventiveness and humour and with the sheer power of its storytelling. It's brutal and confronting and it's sad and funny at the same time. Like the Gulf Country itself, this is big enough to lose yourself in. Once in, you may never want to be found.

The Independent (UK)

There is hope here in these stories – the big ones and the little ones in between – but like Norm, you'll need to dive in and almost drown in them to find it. Like Will, the reader is on a quest. Like Truthful the copper, you won't know quite what to believe. And like Elias, you'll emerge from this astonishing novel, sodden but illuminated, and with part of your brain left somewhere in the Dreamtime.

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Beyond the Book

Aboriginal Land Rights

aboriginal facesCarpentaria is essentially a novel about the clash of cultures, told from the perspective of the Aboriginal people of Australia. Just as the book illustrates, there is still debate in Australia about who can legitimately claim rights to the land - indigenous Australians, or descendants of the original European settlers. From the earliest contact with British settlers through the reeducation campaigns of the late twentieth century, the Aboriginal peoples have been effectively marginalized from democratic society.

As did many colonial regimes, the British colonizers of Australia viewed the land in their newly "discovered" country as belonging to no one, and thus open to appropriation....

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