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That Deadman Dance

3.48  ·  Rating details ·  780 Ratings  ·  131 Reviews
Set in Western Australia in the first decades of the nineteenth century, That Deadman Dance is a vast, gorgeous novel about the first contact between the Aboriginal Noongar people and the new European settlers.

Bobby Wabalanginy is a young Noongar man, smart, resourceful, and eager to please. He befriends the European arrivals, joining them as they hunt whales, till the lan
Published March 1st 2012 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published 2010)
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Community Reviews

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Jennifer (JC-S)
Jul 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: librarybooks
‘We learned your words and songs and stories, and never knew you didn’t want to hear ours…’

This novel, winner of the 2011 Miles Franklin Award, is set in the early nineteenth century, when American whalers, British colonists and the Noongar people first made contact in the south of Western Australia. Much of the novel is set in a period of almost 20 years, and covers a stark change in the relationship between the indigenous and non-indigenous inhabitants. From their early reliance on the Noongar
You can dive deep into a book and not know just how deep until you return gasping to the surface, and are surprised at yourself, your new and so very sensitive skin. As if you’re someone else altogether, some new self trying on the words. (p86)

This is exactly what this entrancing new novel achieves. It is, as you read, as if all the preconceived ideas of this country’s history of Black and White relations fall away and a new paradigm takes their place. What if, Scott asks, the benefits of White
Oct 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't need to say much about the book itself, because there are already more than enough good reviews, both here, and on other forums. Put simply, it is the story of what might have been, the story of a clash of cultures, and the story of dispossession. When I first finished the book, I felt it was one that every Australian should read. But I am saddened by some of the Goodreads reviews: sure, not everyone has to like a book, and I agree that this one meandered through time and stories, but it ...more
Jul 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some times, as a reader, I need a bit of a push to read a specific book. Usually, this happens with books that I wanted enough to buy but then I struggle to fit it in between library reads and review copies.

So it was with this book. I bought it last year when I attended a Melbourne Writers Festival session which featured the author, Kim Scott, along with a couple of other authors talking about writing books from the indigenous perspective. In this case, Kim Scott is an indigenous Australian, a m
Kim Scott's That Deadman Dance is an intriguing book, a fictionalised account of 'the friendly frontier' in the early 19th century south coast of Western Australia. Scott writes from the perspective of his Noongar ancestors as well as detailed research of the journals and records of the period.

This is a bitter-sweet tale of missed opportunities and the inevitability of loss and dispossession shown through the prism of a handful of colourful characters - and particularly through young 'Bobby' Wa
Oct 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: australian
This is the best thing I've read in ages. It's just beautiful. So restrained and so gorgeous and so happy and so sad. And so odd, in such a charming and incredibly warm way.
Jun 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a European reader, used to novels which are linear in structure, I struggled with this book at first. The structure reflects an Aboriginal way of story telling: episodic, non linear. The narration changes to reflect the perspective of different characters, revealing the White settlers' view of the Noongar people of Western Australia's south west, and in turn, the Noongar people's view of the white setters and their gradual annexing of Noongar land.
An important read.
Oct 23, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I live in Western Australia, which is where That Deadman Dance is set. I was really looking forward to reading a story about the history of my home - about the time that the Traditional Owners of the land, the Nyoongar people, welcomed English settlers in the area that eventually became the city of Albany. Albany was a whaling town - I remember taking a holiday there the year that the last whaling station closed - and That Deadman Dance explores the start of the whaling industry too.

Kim Scott ap
Jan 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(3.5 Stars)

While, Scott is a gifted storyteller, I wasn't able to connect with his characters. The characters all felt sort of superfical to me, like they had no depth. This was mainly because there are so many characters and Scott spends a little time telling the background of each one of them. They all had unique and interesting stories but I just didn't feel any connection with any of them. And I love a good character based story.

The main character in the story is Bobby, a Noongar boy, whom t
The Deadman's dance is not a terrible book. However it also wasn't a very interesting book, at least to me. It probably mainly has to do with my lack of interest in Australian history but even a fictional retelling of the first settlement didn't keep my interest. Sadly, neither did the characters/ They were so unbelievable that it was hard to believe they were actually people. They didn't have much depth or personality. They seemed more like situations rather than actual people.

There is however
Aug 26, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: aussie-fiction
An enlightening read focusing on the relationships between the increasing numbers of white settlers and the Noongar people - the native indigenous Australians in the Albany region of Western Australia. The novel is set in the early to mid 1800s, with the burgeoning whaling industry as the backdrop, and the attitudes and relationships between the races are seen to be constantly changing and evolving, with young aboriginal boy Bobby Wabalanginy often being the lynchpin between the two cultures.
Thoroughly enjoyable book, wonderful prose with endearing characters (Bobby, Menak etc). Although a work of fiction, it still presents an incredible insight into this time in history. I highly recommend this book.
Apr 05, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
If I could give it a lower rating, I would
Jan Reid
Mar 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Australians (particularly)
Shelves: reviewed, australian
That Deadman Dance by Kim Scott is the book that many readers (and Australians in particular) have been waiting for, perhaps without even realising it. Many authors have attempted to describe early settlement in Australia, but their efforts remain primarily from the European perspective. Scott, on the other hand, as the son of an Aboriginal father and English mother, was able to authentically deliver from both perspectives.

Kim Scott is no stranger to fame. He is the first indigenous Australian a
I can't make my mind up about this book. The ending was really strong; the start was kind of slow: an annoyingly filmic montage that skipped back and forth in time, not grabbing hold of anyplace or anywhere quite enough to sink you into the story, so it took me a while to feel like it was starting.

In parts the language is gorgeous and evocative. Elsewhere it's ordinary and weighed down by lengthy visual descriptions that weren't always vivid for me. I got a bit bored in some of the long passage
Mar 30, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, australia
This is not an easy book to read - the prose jumps around jarringly, requiring patience and not always in a pleasurable way. The tale, however, of intercultural encounters that inevitably eventually become dispossession, theft and murder, is compelling and so well told. The pervasive optimism of the central character - Bobby Wabalangay - and the refusal to let any character be a stereotype, stop the book from feeling grim, but at the same time, this is a sharp history about the conflict for reso ...more
jimmy  gill
Jan 27, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I began this book with the best of intentions and high hopes. Both where dashed upon the rocks of the coastline on which this very novel is set. The remains trodden on by Bobby and his cohort as well as the plebeian settlers that have somehow become lost in the colonial history of Australia and wondered onto the pages of this rather unfortunate , which had me weeping within twenty pages and wondering whether I had become so bored I had forgotten how to read or that my mind had simply switched to ...more
Max Davine
Firstly Kim Scott's That Deadman Dance portrays, for a non-indigenous person, the finest and most respectful representation of it's indigenous characters I have yet come across. Older texts heinously allocate them the role of uncivil savages while modern media either portrays the helpless victim or the proud campaigner. While the latter two a certainly valid, none of the three are representative of what a character should be: a human being, complete with vulnerabilities, flaws and fears. It make ...more
Angus Mcfarlane
"the only thing worse than sailors in a ship was whalers in a ship; maggots in a floating abattoir"
I read this book at the same time as reading moby dick, so the reference to whaling quoted above seemed particularly poignant, and since I dislike the practice, apt.
There are many other evocative images in the book, and it probably warrants a slow read to appreciate them fully, but on the first read,I was keen to hear the story. Bobby, the main character is a lovable boy who grows to manhood over
Annabel Smith
Feb 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Annabel by: Cougar
That Deadman Dance is a fictionalised account of early contact between the Noongar people of Albany, Western Australia, and Europeans settling in the area in the early 1800s.

The novel centres on the story of Bobby Wabalanginy and his family and their gradual process of coming to understand both what the settlers seek, and what they offer. Bobby is a loveable character and the novel beautifully evokes the Noongar people’s sense of humour, and their connection with place. There is some stunning me
Aug 23, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I wanted to love this book. But I just found it an enormous struggle to finish it. I didn’t want to give up on it. And I did finish it (I hammered through it in 4 days, or it would have sat on my bedside table half read for 6 months). The writing was beautiful, & very poetic. But the style was awkward to me, and I never really fell into the rhythm of it. And I just could not engage with the story & characters. I found the narrative very disjointed & had a hard time piecing it togethe ...more
Martin Chambers
Aug 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful book, one of my favorites. So this was first contact. Told from the point of view of a single character who is also all dispossessed indigenous people and who contains in him the entire history of first contact and subsequent dispossession, ‘That Deadman Dance’ explores how small misunderstandings arise in the interaction of two vastly different cultures, and lead to things more severe. How, perhaps, things might have been different. Of course, culture does not interact at all, it is ...more
Dec 12, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The writing of my local and familiar landscape is exquisite, the story is a heartbreaking one, and the narrative is original and breathtaking in its achievement. While challenging at first, as the chronology is fragmented and the story is told from many points of view, I found myself surrendering to and embracing the 'timeless now' of the narrative. I highly recommend this book to all who are interested in understanding more of the colonial history of Albany and surrounds (in south-west Western ...more
Jane Stabb
Mar 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Me and my people... My people and I (he winked) are not so good traders as we thought. We thought making friends was the best thing, and never knew that when we took your flour and sugar and tea and blankets that we'd lose everything of ours. We learned your words and songs and stories, and never knew you didn't want to hear ours.
Feb 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed this book ...gave me hope .... loved hearing about our indigenous people -their creativity, intelligence, humour, curiosity ...
Anne Treasure
Dec 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Beautiful prose. Important work in the Australian literature landscape.
Reenie Scott
Strong, moving, beautifully written. A must read
Blue Eyed Vixen
Found this book a bit of a challenge. Pace, plot and characters were not as developed as I would like.
Historically, the story is engaging, and told well. I also enjoyed Kim's vivid descriptions.
I found the story, characters and setting so interesting but the writing style wasn't for me.
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Goodreads Librari...: Cover for That Deadman Dance 2 15 Jun 21, 2013 07:04PM  
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Born in 1957, Kim Scott's ancestral Noongar country is the south-east coast of Western Australia between Gairdner River and Cape Arid. His cultural Elders use the term Wirlomin to refer to their clan, and the Norman Tindale nomenclature identifies people of this area as Wudjari/Koreng. Kim's professional background is in education and the arts. He is the author of two novels, True Country and Bena ...more
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“Barnacles stud the smooth dark skin, and crabs scurry across it. That black back must be slippery, treacherous like rock … But you see the hole in its back, the breath going in and out, and you think of all the blowholes along this coast; how a clever man can slip into them, fly inland one moment, back to ocean the next. Always curious, always brave, you take one step and the whale is underfoot. Two steps more and you are sliding, sliding deep into a dark and breathing cave that resonates with whale song. Beside you beats a blood-filled heart so warm it could be fire. Plunge your hands into that whale heart, lean into it and squeeze and let your voice join the whale’s roar. Sing that song your father taught you as the whale dives, down, deep. How dark it is beneath the sea, and looking through the whale’s eyes you see bubbles slide past you like … But there was none of that. Bobby was only imagining, only writing. Held in the sky on a rocky headland, Bobby drew chalk circles on slate, drew bubbles. Bubelz. Roze a wail. He erased the marks with the heel of his hand. It wasn’t true, it was just an old story, and he couldn’t even remember the proper song.” 0 likes
“Wooral was in the pilot boat now, heading for where the ship rested, its wings folded and tied. But it is a ship, not a bird, Menak reminded himself again. He gestured to his dog, and the animal leapt into his arms and fixed its attention on the ship as if the sight stirred some memory of scurrying after rats below its deck. Menak stroked the dog. Alidja, Jock. Noonak kornt maaman ngaangk moort. Look, Jock, your house father mother family.” 0 likes
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