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3.49 of 5 stars 3.49  ·  rating details  ·  327 ratings  ·  58 reviews
Carpentaria is an epic novel set in the Gulf country of north western Queensland. The novel's portrait of life in the precariously settled coastal town of Desperance centres on the powerful Phantom family, leader of the Westend Pricklebush people, and its battles with old Joseph Midnight's renegade Eastend mob on the one hand, and the white officials of Uptown and the neig ...more
Paperback, 520 pages
Published 2006 by Giramondo
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Best Modern Australian Literature
70th out of 320 books — 388 voters
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The Miles Franklin Literary Award
15th out of 54 books — 24 voters

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Community Reviews

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I can see why Carpentaria won a Miles Franklin Award. It is a big book which tells an important story in a manner likely to be novel to many readers.

On its face, Carpentaria is the story of a town, Desperance, on the Gulf of Carpentaria, giving the reader an insight into tensions within the Aboriginal communities on the outskirts of the town and between them and the white people who live in the town itself. Underneath that, and far more importantly, it is a story about family, Country and Cultu
I didn't understand much of what I read in this book - so my 'two star' rating isn't really a judgment on the quality of the novel, but on how much I enjoyed it, and how much I, personally, could piece together. I imagine if you're a literary sort, you could mine this deliciously for all kinds of repeated metaphor and thematics and meaning. I mostly spent the read going, "what is going on?"

In the largest terms, this is a book about the Aboriginal spirits of Australia being mightier than the work
"One evening in the driest grasses in the world, a child who was no stranger to her people, asked if anyone could find hope. The people of parable and prophecy pondered what was hopeless and finally declared they no longer knew what hope was. The clocks, tick-a-ty tock, looked as though they might run out of time. Luckily, the ghosts in the memories of the old folk were listening, and said anyone can find hope in the stories: the big stories and the little ones in between."

Carpentaria is a stunn
“Carpentaria” is an incredible novel. The second fictional work from Alexis Wright, it deals with sweeping issues such as the clash of cultures in Australia, the different goals and focuses of whites vs. those of the native Aboriginals; and does so by looking at just one small imaginary town which the author calls Desperance which is located on the very real Gulf of Carpentaria in Queensland. The relations between black and white Australia play out on the small stage of Desperance, often in a vi ...more
I urge everybody to read this staggering book which is IMHO a work of immortal genius.

Seriously, it’s huge. When I think of authors whose books can barely contain the hugeness of what is inside them, I think of Dostoyevsky, Mishima and Ihimaera. And now we in Australia have the precious gift of Alexis Wright.

This is it. Forget about Baz Luhrmann. “Carpentaria” is the Great Australian Novel; the epic of our time. It isn’t a small book, or an easy read. You can’t get through it, for example, while
I need way more time to digest but this book is extraordinary. I've never before read anything that so effectively conveys an experience of living across two cultures. A lot of it was hard for me to follow, but I felt like that was part of the point; I was immersed in experiences that were strange and foreign even when they were familiar. It's not an easy read, but it's magnificent.
Bill Brydon
Every so often a book comes along that seizes your imagination, keeps you up all night reading, and then sets you thinking in a new way for the rest of your life. Carpentaria, by Waanyi/Australian writer Alexis Wright, is that kind of novel. Set in the northeast of Australia, near the Gulf of Carpentaria, during a time when an international mining company threatens potentially devastating environmental change, this book has it all: narrative energy, an ear for distinctive voices, characters we c ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jane (yesmissjane)

To start with, this book took me nearly two weeks to read, which is about four times longer than I expect to spend on a book. So the thing is not a page turner. In many places it has almost dream like, hypnotic flavour. So many times I found myself paging back to try and work out if what I was reading was straightforward narrative, someone's imaginings, a dream perhaps? In as far as this is indicative of a problem, I think the problem was largely with me, habituated as I am to significantly
William Cronon has described how the landscapes we start and end our stories with can often constitute the story itself. This novel works almost like a meditation on that idea. The land and sea are this story's most compelling characters. The others who people them often seem like they are just thickening the description of the country, when they are not busy trying to reshape it in even more literal ways. This storytelling approaches the style of aboriginal myth, as surely as the narrator's voi ...more
Don't be misled by my rating. I gave it 4 stars because it is an outstanding work - but it has defeated me this time. It's not the sort of book I can listen to, despite the superb narration of Isaach Drandich. There is just too much going on in this book to follow while I'm driving to and from work. Characters come and go, plot lines are left hanging, and events jump around in time. There is so much to absorb, so many events and characters to remember, that it is difficult to appreciate without ...more
Simone Guest
“One evening in the driest grasses in the world, a child who was no stranger to her people, asked if anyone could find hope. The people of parable and prophecy pondered what was hopeless and finally declared they no longer knew what hope was. The clocks, tick-a-ty tock, looked as though they might run out of time. Luckily, the ghosts in the memories of the old folk were listening, and said anyone can find hope in the stories: the big stories and the little ones in between.”

Wright is an Aborigina
This is definitely not a book for public transport. This book needs quite time with no distractions. I was interested to see that other peoples reviews all say, still reading, still reading. It is an epic read- it takes concentration and time. It is exhausting and when I would go to sleep after reading it, it would work its way into my dreams.
The book group I am taking tomorrow has read it and I will be interested to see who managed to finish it, I honestly wonder if I would have finished it oth
Wow, a big book, and a long time reading. Nevertheless, it's an absolutely unique take on the meeting of two cultures. "Desperence", a town founded by white australians on the north coast has the expected conflicts between the whites and the aboriginal people who live on its edges. It has complex conflicts among each of these groups as well. And then there is the international mining company working nearby -- hiring locals and ignoring the traditional views of land use. Alexis Wright, an aborigi ...more
Huh. Weird book. I had really wanted to read this book, had it on my list for a long time before I could get it in the U.S. Then, when I actually read it, not so much. Maybe it's because I am neither Australian nor Aboriginal, but I didn't understand what was going on for substantial stretches of a very long book. Character showed up after being gone for 200 pages (Norm Phantom, Bruiser). Major plot issues just occurred, as if they included in some other addition with more build up on them (the ...more
A quarter of the way through and struggling to keep going. However I have read the reviews and have found that I'm not along - so I will persevere. I am enjoying the epic and mystical writing style and the importance of the book, its just not one I look forward to picking up at the moment. Every word seems a struggle - like it has been wrenched from the guarded soul of the writer and given to us not so much with joyous sharing but with spite and bitterness. I am forcing myself to continue...
May 28, 2009 Jodi rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: own
This book certainly took me far away from my real world! It was fascinating the way fantasy and reality entwined to create a place that while I knew it was real seemed to exist on another plain. It was not clear to me until about 2/3 of the way through what the real world story was. At that point there was an aha moment and it all became clear. The characters were tightly drawn and vivid. In the beginning it was hard to tell who's story it would turn out to be and the end was a true surprise. I ...more
Robert Ditterich
I'm aware that this is a story held in high esteem, and it is remarkable writing. However I found the story rather boring, despite the incredible language and atmosphere. I guess I needed to be taken somewhere by it rather than just being immersed in it. I sometimes felt as though my feet were stuck in mud.
I heard an interview with Alexis Wright a couple of days ago where she was talking about the current indigenous issues and her book. She sounded like a woman who loves stories, telling them and hearing them, and she is so deeply involved in finding a place for herself and her people. We are not two people but one - never let us forget this. I'm looking forward to diving head first into this book.

some time later....
This was not a book to rush through. Once I took my time and slid slowly into the
IT took me a while to get into and understand Wright's style. She flicks from reality, to dreaming, to spirituality, and back again. At times I didnt know if I was in a reality bit or a dreaming bit. Once i got into the swing of it all I couldn't put the book down. 518 pages of mostly riveting reading. Set in the Gulf of Carpentaria the novel focuses on a small town and its characters along with the mining industry setting up a new mine in the region; those who want it and those who dont. Wright ...more
Joey Diamond
Often when I'm reading I find myself skipping over descriptive landscapey passages for the action. So there was a lot of discipline required when I started reading Carpenteria. I wasn't sure I would like it, I was confused about what was going on, and who was who.
But somewhere in there I found myself hoping it wouldn't end too soon. All the airy stories and myths kind of wove themselves together into something robust.
Do you call this magical realism? It seems like a way to write about things t
Rosa Louverture
My first book for my novel-a-month this year, and it was a truly breathtaking exploration of Aboriginal culture and spirituality, set starkly against white small-town life and mining interests. Even having grown up in a rural area, this novel reminded me how foreign much of this country is to me. The theft of this land from its original inhabitants is an abomination, and its continues today in an only slightly altered form, using a different rationale. Highly recommended, especially to all Austr ...more
Sally Koetsveld
4 pages into this book, I'm hooked despite the fact that the print in small and the book large...

Okay, a week in and I am still slowly reading this book and think I will probably have to give it back to the library before I have finsihed it.

The problem with my disabilities is that sometimes, no matter how much I love a book, I just can't continue reading them. In some cases its because they are physically too heavy, in other cases its because the writing is too dense for me to concentrate. Unfor
Selkirk College
If you are ready to dive into the mind of the Australian Aboriginal people and see the world through their eyes, then read this.
Simon Cox
Yikes - that was hard work.
Alexis Wright is one of Australia's finest Aboriginal writers. Carpentaria is her second novel, an epic set in the Gulf country of north-western Queensland, from where her people come. The novel's portrait of life in the precariously settled coastal town of Desperance centres on the powerful Phantom family, leader of the Westend Pricklebush people, and its battles with old Joseph Midnight's renegade Eastend mob on the one hand, and the white officials of Uptown and the neighbouring Gurfurrit min ...more
I really enjoyed this book although at times I found it a bit repetitive. There where times I had to force myself to keep reading it but in the end the story came together beautifully. The characters were fantastic and very well rounded. It's also great to read an Aussie book where the characters speak our language (not the fake Aussie lingo used in some overseas books). I especially enjoyed the dream time and the perspective from our indigenous population.
Like Carpentaria itself, this book is distant and inaccessible. Trying to rate it makes me ask the philosophical question of what makes a book 'good.' In some ways this book was amazing - the characters, the quirky stories - but in other ways it was very difficult to read. It always held you at a distance so you could never really get involved in the book.
I listened to the talking book version of Carpentaria, narrated by Isaach Drandich. And what a narrator he was - insert list of superlatives here. He did have an amazing text work with. The story is intricate, mesmerising, non-linear and told from multiple perspectives. The subject matter is at times heart-wrenching, and at other times hilarious. Alexis Wright writes about race relations in Australia with a sharp wit.
I enjoyed parts of this book but overall I found it was trying a little too hard (or maybe not hard enough in some areas). The language was quite evocative, however the unstructured plot was annoying at times. I feel like there could have been more editing as the book was too long and I found several errors. I did engage with the characters, setting and the overall idea/theme. This is between 3 and 4 stars.
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Books I Want To T...: General Discussion - Carpentaria 2 9 Nov 27, 2008 12:59AM  
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  • Tall Man: The Death of Doomadgee
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Alexis Wright is from the Waanji people from the highlands of the southern Gulf of Carpentaria. Her acclaimed first novel Plains of Promise was published in 1997 by University of Queensland Press and was shortlisted in the Commonwealth Writers' Prize, The Age Book of the Year, and the NSW Premier's Awards. The novel has been translated into French.

Alexis has published award-winning short stories a
More about Alexis Wright...
The Swan Book Plains of Promise Grog War Sweet Seduction For The Love of Them (Evansville Heat)

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