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3.54  ·  Rating Details ·  535 Ratings  ·  86 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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Dec 27, 2011 Jo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 02, 2011 Thoraiya rated it it was amazing
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
"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
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
Subject Terms, from my library's database:
Aboriginal Australians -- Fiction.
Indigenous peoples -- Queensland -- Fiction.
Race relations -- Fiction.
Eccentrics and eccentricities -- Fiction.
Mines and mineral resources -- Fiction.

Carpentaria is kind of One Hundred Years of Solitude for people who hated One Hundred Years of Solitude (so: me, I hated it, come at me). I mean, people who like Marquez will also probably like this book, although it's not totally boring so maybe they won't. (Sorry, sorry.
May 31, 2009 Dave rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature, fiction
“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
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
Apr 01, 2014 Allison rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, australia
This book requires a lot of a reader, especially a non-indigenous reader. Being able to understand time as something other than linear is an important example.

I will say that I almost switched books after I wasn't really "grabbed" in the first two hundred or so pages. I would find my mind wandering while reading, and when I came back I would discover myself in a scene which was either a flashback, a fever dream, a legend, or an actual current event - it was hard to recognize which if you weren't
Feb 10, 2014 Janet rated it it was amazing
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.
Jun 11, 2016 Alison rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, australia
To be brutally honest, halfway through this book, it was still mostly a chore to read, so I'm a little surprised that I just unhesitatingly selected 5 stars to rate it, but that accurately reflects my journey in reading it. By the last few chapters, I was so thoroughly hooked I couldn't bear the thought of it ending.
It is hard to tell how much of that is that I simply enjoyed the much faster pace, clear stakes and emotional punchiness of the second half, and how much it is that Wright's style ta
May 24, 2016 Mook rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
Carpentaria is set in a small coastal town in Australia, called Desperance. The book follows the people living there, with a focus on the Phantom family, an aboriginal family living on the Westside who is constantly at odds with the Eastside mob (run by Jospeh Midnight), and the white townsmen. There are a lot of things happening in this book, from young men fighting against the mining operations, to the way racism affects investigations in own, to the traditional stories and knowledge that Norm ...more
Jan 20, 2013 Victoria rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 12, 2015 Graham rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
True literature. Alexis uses her knowledge and vocab to create a very atmospheric read. I found I had to concentrate and re-read some passages, but this always rewarded by revealing another aspect, layer or word-play. The people of Desperance will linger long in my mind. I will read Carpentaria again!
Mar 13, 2015 Andrew rated it it was ok
Beautiful prose and fascinating characters, but the lack of any clear direction really brought this one down for me. Hard to like characters when you have very little idea of what is going on, or how what is happening in one scene relates to any other scene. Hopefully, The Swan Book will offer more direction and a more coherent tale.
Dec 05, 2016 Helen rated it it was amazing
I often read a book in a day, but this book, I struggled to read 50 pages a day as you have to concentrate on every single word. However those words are like poetry; full of beautiful, funny, pathetic break-your-heart descriptions. I've never read a book that comes close to describing day to day lives in a place like Desperance let alone Pricklebush or an author who shows such understanding of indigenous life. I don't know how white people could ever get their heads around how the Indigenous peo ...more
Elizabeth Fitzgerald
I've not made any progress on this in way too long and would need to start over to remember what happened. I'd like to come back to this one when I've got a bit of time.
Anne Vesco
Oct 13, 2016 Anne Vesco rated it it was amazing
For me, Carpentaria is one of the most important Australian books ever written. If every Australian read this novel we would have a far greater appreciation for Aboriginal culture and social issues but also a greater respect for their knowledge of Australia's environment. However, the most important thing I learnt from the book was just how marginalised the first Australians are. Wright said she wrote Carpentaria hoping to bring to light the unending misery in the lives of many Aboriginal people ...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
Samantha Lillie
Jun 08, 2016 Samantha Lillie rated it really liked it
Following a thematic dive into literary works related to North Australia, Carpenteria quickly became my favourite of 2015. We of the Never Never (Mrs Aenea Gunn) deftly (at times glibly) describes early settler life at the turn of the century in the Top End of Australia (setting: Mataranka, four hours south of Darwin), Journey to the Stone Country (Alex Miller) gently takes us back to a fictionalised setting in outback Queensland, and Xavier Herbert's Capricornia is inspired by the frontier Nort ...more
Apr 28, 2008 Stuart rated it really liked it
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
Dec 29, 2012 Russell rated it really liked it
Shelves: didn-t-finish
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
Bill Brydon
Dec 05, 2014 Bill Brydon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook
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
Jun 17, 2013 Highlyeccentric rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction-for-fun
Wow. This took me a long time to finish. It's a very... demanding book. It's beautiful, of exquisite literary quality, but very demanding. It doesn't make the plot easy to follow; it doesn't even go out of its way to make any of the characters "identify-with-able", although most of them are finely drawn, right on the edge of realism and myth. I was very fond of Elias who came from the sea; I found I didn't actually like Will Phantom much, he was hard to get a grip on; I felt bereft by the story' ...more
Jan 11, 2008 Mala rated it liked it
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
Nov 04, 2009 Caleb rated it it was ok
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
Apr 03, 2009 Jodi rated it really liked it
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
This is a sprawling, shimmering, glorious, confusing book, a story that twists and writhes like the great serpent of the Aboriginal creation myth, the “ancestral serpent” with which Wright opens her epic novel. I was about a quarter of the way through this book before I started to follow the action. It's one of those books that you can't hope to parse; you just have to keep reading and let the words wash over you, allowing yourself to be born along on a flood of words and let their meaning seep ...more
Oct 01, 2014 Colin rated it liked it
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
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
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Books I Want To T...: General Discussion - Carpentaria 2 12 Nov 27, 2008 12:59AM  
  • That Deadman Dance
  • Fortunes of Richard Mahony
  • Drylands
  • Riders in the Chariot
  • Capricornia
  • Tirra Lirra by the River
  • Eucalyptus
  • Come in Spinner
  • The White Earth
  • For Love Alone
  • Grand Days
  • Tall Man: The Death of Doomadgee
  • Wanting
  • Journey to the Stone Country
  • My Brother Jack
  • To the Islands
  • Swords And Crowns And Rings
  • The Great World
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...

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