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Wanting

3.47  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,238 Ratings  ·  195 Reviews
One of our most inventive and important international literary voices, Richard Flanagan now delivers Wanting, a powerful and moving tale of colonialism, ambition, and the lusts and longings that make us human.

It is 1841. In the remote penal colony of Van Diemen’s Land, a barefoot aboriginal girl sits for a portrait in a red silk dress. She is Mathinna, the adopted daughter
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Hardcover, 256 pages
Published January 1st 2008 by Knopf Publishing Group
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English Passengers by Matthew KnealeGould's Book of Fish by Richard FlanaganWanting by Richard FlanaganThe Sound of One Hand Clapping by Richard FlanaganThe Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes
Tasmania
3rd out of 42 books — 22 voters
The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCulloughTomorrow, When the War Began by John MarsdenCloudstreet by Tim WintonA Town Like Alice by Nevil ShutePicnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay
Best Books Set in Australia
169th out of 567 books — 364 voters


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Community Reviews

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Bennet
Mar 12, 2013 Bennet rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels-stories
You see, reason, gentlemen, is a fine thing, that is unquestionable, but reason is only reason and satisfies only man's reasoning capacity, while wanting is a manifestation of the whole of life.
-- Fyodor Dostoevsky

I’ve rarely read anything as compelling and heartbreaking as Flanagan’s description of the failed marriage of Charles and Catherine Dickens, except perhaps his account of the devastating adoption and “civilizing” of a beautiful and precocious Aboriginal orphan girl named Mathinna by
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·Karen·
Apr 27, 2013 ·Karen· rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The distance between savagery and civilisation is the extent we advance from desire to reason... As for the noble savage, I call him an enormous nuisance and I don't care what he calls me. It is all one to me whether he boils his brother in a kettle or dresses as a seal. He can yield to whatever passion he wishes, but for that very reason he is a savage.." Thus the fictional Charles Dickens who is engaged by Lady Jane Franklin to refute the 'slander' cast on her husband that he, one of "England ...more
Diane S ⛄
Jul 18, 2013 Diane S ⛄ rated it liked it
Shelves: roadrallyteamb
Middle of the eighteen-hundreds on the penal colony ofn Van Dieman's Land and temporary home of the man they call"the Protector" sent to clean up the so called native problem. The Governor of the colony, Sir John Fielding and his wife Jane are coming to inspect the colony. Jane who is unable to have a child, falls for one of the laughing and dancing native children young Mathinna and adopts her, calling it a sociological experiment.

Back in England Dickens, who is stifled and unhappy in his marri
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Jill
Apr 23, 2012 Jill rated it it was amazing
“Wow” seems insufficient for a book that engaged, entranced and astonished me. Suffice to say I’ve just discovered a new author who will definitely be explored.

WANTING falls under the category that is now known as “faction” – fiction based on actual events. Three stories are interwoven: Sir John Franklin – the polar explorer who disappeared while attempting to find the Northwest Passage and his wife Lady Jane, in flashbacks to when they governed the penal colony of what is now Tasmania. Charles
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Shannon (Giraffe Days)
Wanting follows two interconnected storylines set about twenty-five years apart: that of Mathinna, an Aboriginal girl sent to live with the last of the Tasmanian Aborigines at the settlement of Wybalenna on Flinders Island; and Charles Dickens, the lauded actor and author and friend to Lady Jane Franklin, wife of the ex-Governor of Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania), Sir John Franklin. She asks Dickens to help refute the story that Sir John and his men had resorted to cannibalism in order to survive w ...more
Marianne
Jan 25, 2016 Marianne rated it really liked it
Wanting is the fifth novel by award-winning Australian author, Richard Flanagan. In 1841, Mathinna, an orphaned young Aboriginal girl, one of the remaining Van Diemen’s Land indigenous who were kept on Flinders Island, was plucked from the “care” of George Augustus Robinson, the Chief Protector of Aborigines, to become the subject of an experiment in civilisation of the savage, conducted by the Governor of Van Diemen’s Land, Sir John Franklin and his wife, Lady Jane Franklin.

Mathinna loved the
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Paige
Aug 10, 2011 Paige rated it it was amazing
The single finest book I have read so far, bar none. Richard Flanagan, a Tasmanian export who has written a few other fabulous novels (including The Death of a River Guide and The Sound of One Hand Clapping), will never get the attention or acclaim he deserves. He is, as a teacher of mine used to say, an old soul, with the intellectual sophistication of Melville but the simplicity of Ernest Hemingway; usually, his writing is pure prose poetry, and it is so beautifully written that the plot is no ...more
Magdalena
Dec 03, 2008 Magdalena rated it it was amazing
One of the key objections I had to Richard Flanagan’s last novel, The Unknown Terrorist was that it put the ideology first: making a political point at the expense of the characters and the plot. This isn't at all the case in Wanting. Indeed, in Wanting, as in Gould’s Book of Fish, the whole notion of historical fact becomes subservient to the greater truth – that of human nature – the most fundamental of emotional responses and how they underpin the making of history. Wanting is a novel that tr ...more
Asma Fedosia
Sep 12, 2015 Asma Fedosia rated it really liked it
I have followed the Flanagan novels since the first one Death of a River Guide. Like the former novels, Wanting is a combination of tragedy and hopeful humanity and is set in a period of Tasmanian history. This one has a similar setting with Gould's Book of Fish: A Novel in Twelve Fish, i.e., the relatively early settlement of Tasmania. The difference here is focus on Aborigine hardships by official policy; whereas Fish is focused on the convicts and commanders of the penal colony. Like Fish the ...more
Marguerite Kaye
Aug 04, 2015 Marguerite Kaye rated it liked it
As a literary exercise, this was an excellent book. As a novel, for me, it just didn't quite work.

There are two stories set about twenty years apart. In the first, in Van Diemen's Land, the British-run penal colony, John Franklyn and his wife have taken over the governorship and 'adopted' a native girl. The plan is to convert her from savage to a 'true' English woman, to demonstrate to the world the 'superiority' of Englishness, and to 'prove' that it can triumph over even what they perceived t
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Merilee
Sep 23, 2009 Merilee rated it it was amazing
Excellent novel set in Tasmania and London involving Charles Dickens and John Franklin, the Antarctic explorer and his wife, Lady Jane.
Nancy Oakes
"You can have whatever you want, only you discover there is always a price. The question is -- can you pay?"

So writes Charles Dickens in one of his notebooks, reflecting the main theme of this novel -- human desires and the consequences of acting on or denying them.

Wanting is set during two different time periods and in two different countries, with two separate narratives. The link from the past to the novel's present is Lady Jane Franklin, wife of Sir John Franklin, who served as Governor of V
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Melaslithos
Oct 09, 2015 Melaslithos rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: oceania
I quite liked the story of Mathinna, less the one about Dickens. Although I can see the likeliness in both these storylines, I still feel that the links between these two were a bit forced, that it was maybe not necessary to put the two in the same book.
Felice
Feb 20, 2011 Felice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
With incredible feeling and spare writing author Richard Flanagan intertwines his novel Wanting with the stories of several historical figures over the course of twenty five years in the mid 19th century with a young Aboriginal girl, Mary and the disappearance of an expedition trying to locate The Northwest Passage. Mary was the daughter of a Tasmanian chief. She arrives into the story when in the 1830's George Augutus Robinson comes to Tasmania as a mediator between the Tasmanians and the white ...more
Gemma Nugent
Sep 09, 2014 Gemma Nugent rated it liked it
Shelves: library, audio-book
I am not sure why but I am drawn to novels set in Tasmania, both contemporary (Cate Kennedy's "The World Beneath", which I loved) and historical. "Wanting" falls into the latter category and showcases Flanagan's affinity for Tasmania and its landscape. His treatment of the fractured relationship between European settlers and the dwindling indigenous population was novel and (perhaps because of that) very confronting. The theme of human desires emerged strongly through the interweaving of Methinn ...more
Tien
Charles Dickens in London was struggling with his inner self. His wife and children do not appear to satisfy him any longer. Everything at home irritated him and he longed… oh, he longed for something…

’The way we are denied love,’ he [Dickens] continued, and she, along with the audience, could hear how hard it was for him to say these words. ‘And the way we suddenly discover it being offered to us, in all its pain and infinite heartbreak. The way we say no to love.’

Whilst in Van Diemen’s Land (i
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Megan Chance
Apr 25, 2012 Megan Chance rated it really liked it
This is an interesting book. As the author says in his acknowledgements, it's a meditation on desire--on what happens when it's suppressed, and what happens when it's not, for good or evil. He explores this by writing parallel stories--one about Charles Dickens and his short acting career--he and Wilkie Collins wrote a play based on Sir John Franklin's explorations looking for the Northwest Passage, a play Dickens acted in himself, becoming somewhat more of a sensation than he already was-- and ...more
Ben Babcock
We all want things. Sometimes the things we think we want are not the things we really want. Usually, the wanting is better than having. These are all familiar feelings that Richard Flanagan plays with in the aptly-named Wanting. His exploration of these ideas is deft and interesting, but the book lacks an overall unity to make it truly memorable or amazing.

I’m perplexed by Wanting’s structure, which is split between the early 1840s, when Franklin was governor of Van Diemen’s Land (Tasmania), an
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Carolyn
Oct 09, 2009 Carolyn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"You see, reason, gentlemen, is a fine thing, that is unquestionable, but reason is only reason and satisfies only man's reasoning capacity, while wanting is a manifestation of the whole of life." -- Fyodor Dostoevsky.

"That which is wanting cannot be numbered." -- Ecclesiastes

With these two quotes as introduction, Tasmanian writer Richard Flanagan ("Gould's Book of Fish") raises the curtain on two intersecting tales of men who both want and are wanting, and the effluvia of their desires.

In one
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Clare
Oct 21, 2009 Clare rated it it was amazing


What I learned from Wanting is embodied in a short line in Chapter 1:

'Though he was weaning them off their native
diet of berries and plants and shellfish and
game, and onto flour and sugar and tea, their
health seemed in no way comparable to what it
had been.'

Ah, the folly of "civilized" beings who impose their way of life upon the "savages" of the world.

Wanting contains many stories: the tale of a haughty woman who chooses social experimentation over genuine love,the lessons of a writer who
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Collin Shea
As another reviewer said, this was a slow book to read, especially considering that it's not very long. Slow is not always or necessarily or a bad thing and this book does have a lot to offer, although somehow it just never fully captivated me.
I always appreciate a book that has me reaching for a dictionary, although with this book I did find at least one instance in which I'm not sure that the meaning of a word was conveyed appropriately.
I very much enjoyed Flanagan's descriptions of nature, da
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Catherine Siemann
A very brief, modern book about Victorians. The novel is comprised of alternating stories of Charles Dickens, his disintegrating marriage, and his dawning love for Ellen Ternan, and of Mathinna, a Tasmanian aborigine adopted by Sir Richard Franklin (Arctic explorer and captain of the Terror, and his wife Lady Jane (who enters into Dickens's narrative as well). Mathinna's story is almost unrelentingly grim; Dickens's less so; both deal with the nature of desire and longing -- wanting.

The novel sk
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Emma
I don't know, why was Dickens in this book? I kept feeling like it was all a bit forced; but maybe this is a hangover from the Bolano (how do I do that Latin 'nye' sound tilde thing? hmm), which was rambling and unforced. I felt a bit that the book was reveling in its historicity, and setting up a pair of stories that I knew exactly the ending of. Perhaps this is a result of spending a few weeks in Tassie last month.

It must be hard to write a book from the points of view of so many unsympatheti
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Jo-anne
Jul 20, 2014 Jo-anne rated it liked it
First time for this author. Lovely use of language and interesting subject matter but I never felt " engaged" with either the characters or the book itself. Do plan to read another to give him a second try. Brutal portrayal of conditions amongst the Aborigines
Carolyn Mck
Jan 08, 2016 Carolyn Mck rated it liked it
This is an ambitious novel that didn’t quite come off for me. Based on real events in the early days of Tasmanian settlement, it highlights the experiences of an aboriginal orphan who is taken up by the wife of the Governor of Tasmania, Mrs Franklin, with dire consequences for the young girl, Mathinna.

Franklin later returns to England and departs on his final Arctic voyage, where he and his men disappear. When Eskimos find some evidence of their death, there is talk of cannibalism. Charles Dicke
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Alamarani
Wanting by Richard Flanagan was a new and interesting read for me. This novel made it seem like it was non-fiction rather than fiction because of the use of history and historical figures, mainly, Sir John Franklin, lady jane and Charles Dickens . Something that I liked about Wanting was that every chapter would alternate from the past to present. Flanagan constantly brings up the year to differentiate the past from present. Although it was something I liked, it also confused me because I woul ...more
Lindsay
Apr 26, 2015 Lindsay rated it really liked it
I can't say this was a particularly pleasant read, but all the more powerful because of it. It's a look at the corruptive and destructive nature of colonialism -- on those who are colonized and those who would colonize them. But, of course, like many a good novel, the themes reach far beyond that. "Wanting" isn't only about the desire for land and the subjugation of its people, but also about desire of a more carnal nature.

The book is two stories that are connected physically by the character of
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Becky Dartnall
Jan 19, 2015 Becky Dartnall rated it liked it
Not just a multi-narrative novel, but an examination of Victorian values of the British mid-nineteenth century. And while not as clear, yes, it does try to unveil, as the NY Times review says: "As its title suggests (and as Flanagan confirms in an author’s note), “Wanting” is among other things a meditation on desire". One viewpoint involves an 1840s English couple (he's an Arctic explorer who also becomes provisional governor of Van Diemen's Land -modern day Tasmania); another focuses on Mathin ...more
itpdx
May 19, 2015 itpdx rated it really liked it
This is a marvelous piece of historical fiction. It follows Lady Jane and Sir John Franklin while he served as governor of Tasmania and Lady Jane's later intersection with Charles Dickens. Flanagan explicitly sets it up as an exploration of civilization vs. "wild". But it also brings in threads of colonialism and societal and gender norms set in Victorian times. Flanagan accomplishes this with interesting and moving writing.
Sylvie
Oct 29, 2015 Sylvie rated it really liked it
Richard Flanagan is a perceptive and engaged writer. He is a master of language.

I came to this book via The Long Road to the Deep South about the building of the Burma railway by prisoners of the Japanese during World War II. In its way, “Wanting” is equally heart-rending.

It is a story about failures of conscience, and how human beings try to mask these failures by subterfuge and activity. It is about the brutal conditions on Van Dieman's Land in the mid nineteenth century, and how the story is
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Richard Flanagan (born 1961) is an author, historian and film director from Tasmania, Australia. He was president of the Tasmania University Union and a Rhodes Scholar. Each of his novels has attracted major praise. His first, Death of a River Guide (1994), was short-listed for the Miles Franklin Award, as were his next two, The Sound of One Hand Clapping (1997) and Gould's Book of Fish (2001). Hi ...more
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“You see, reason, gentlemen, is a fine thing, that is unquestionable, but reason is only reason and satisfies only man’s reasoning capacity, while wanting is a manifestation of the whole of life. Fyodor Dostoevsky” 0 likes
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