CBRBingo: Uncannon (And card full!)
Carpentaria is a powerful novel by Waanyi woman, Alexis Wright, set in the fictional town of Desperance on Australia’s remote tropical Gulf of Carpentaria. It’s a challenging read, with densely beautiful passages of description and distant omniscient narrative that takes sudden dives down into the dirt of this troubled town and its messy inhabitants. It took me a while to find its rhythm, but then I was hooked.
This is a story about a family. Norm Phantom, who “the Pricklebush mob [said] could grab hold of the river with his mind and live with it as his father’s father did before him”. Angel Day, Norm’s estranged wife, Queen of the rubbish dump who scavenged the luck of the white people. Will Phantom, their absent rebel son, land rights activist, troublemaker, accused of sabotage, rumoured to “even [know] how to assemble an atomic weapon”.
It’s a story of a divided town. Uptown, where the descendants of the white pioneers live, and tell themselves that the Aboriginal people aren’t really part of the town at all. And on each side, two rival factions of blackfellas. Norm Phantom’s Pricklebush mob, and the Eastside mob led by Joseph Midnight, with their rival claim for traditional ownership.
Wright lays out a meandering tale of colourful characters, with strong undercurrents of tension coiling underneath. Then three young boys, guilty until proven innocent, and the return of Will Phantom bring on the raging flood and sweep the narrative out into the mythic waters of the Gulf in a “catastrophic requiem”. Something rich, and strange.