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The Swan Book

3.33  ·  Rating details ·  702 ratings  ·  148 reviews
The Swan Book is set in the future, with Aboriginals still living under the Intervention in the north, in an environment fundamentally altered by climate change. It follows the life of a mute young woman called Oblivia, the victim of gang-rape by petrol-sniffing youths, from the displaced community where she lives in a hulk, in a swamp filled with rusting boats, and thousa ...more
Paperback, 342 pages
Published August 2013 by Giramondo
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Average rating 3.33  · 
Rating details
 ·  702 ratings  ·  148 reviews

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Stef Rozitis
This I going to be hard to explain, because I am going to refer to a book with ghosts and alternative, maybe split realities and animals who are sentient and not sentient at the same time and a weird jumping around sense of time and place as a very horrifyingly believable book. It is the most believable sort of gloomy, hope-lacking dystopian book. I don’t think at any point of the book there was a moment of relief from the forlorn situation of the suffering and dehumanised “Oblivia” also sometim ...more
Jul 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: aww2013, oz-sf
(I would like to acknowledge that Alexis Wright is a member of the Waanyi nation, and that I do not know the story of her country or any other in Australia. I have attempted not to presume too much by reading one novel.)

This is an astonishing novel — a book that I would recommend more highly than I currently rate it, because I don't think it's finished with me yet. This is one of those books that teach you how to read them, and I am a slow learner. So, between passages of brilliant, beautiful wr
Jul 24, 2015 rated it did not like it
A mess of rambling descriptions, symbolism and mythology that didn't go anywhere and was well above my comprehension levels. The plot description sounded so promising – but for me, this book was just hard work. ...more
Jennifer (JC-S)
‘This is the quest to regain sovereignty over my own brain.’

This novel is set in Australia in the future: around the time of the third centenary, in a world fundamentally altered by climate change, and where – following an Army Intervention - Aboriginals are living in a fenced camp alongside a stinking swamp containing the refuse of war.

It follows the life of a mute young woman called Oblivia Ethylene.
Oblivia is the victim of gang rape, who lives on a hulk in a swamp surrounded by rusting boat
Aug 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I have been waiting for this book all my life.

Just wonderful. Real Australian science fiction. Not the Australia of the past 200 years projected into the future, but the Australia of the past 50 000 years projected into the future in a work that is vivid, poetic, incisive, intelligent and memorable.
Brittany (UnderTheRadarBooks)
May 10, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2016
Beutiful writing, zero plot. Not for me.
Aug 19, 2015 rated it did not like it
Unfortunately I was required to read this book for a university course, so therefore I was not able to simply abandon it like I wanted to every second that I was reading it. Forgive me if I'm wrong, but when did a syntactical jumble of words become "good" writing? I can appreciate that Wright has many important things to say about Australia as a country and the Indigenous people, however I feel as though she could have gotten her point across better and more effectively if she had put down the t ...more
Michael Livingston
Jan 20, 2014 rated it liked it
I'm not sure I can really review this book fairly as I'm pretty sure that a lot of what is going on here passed me by. There's some glorious language, some snippets of blistering satire and the bones of a richly allegorical novel here, but it's swamped by cultural references that I mostly missed, shifts in tone that left me baffled rather than engaged and a kind of stream of conscious approach that overwhelmed me. I got a lot out of Wright's previous book (Carpenteria), but here I think she's ki ...more
Jane (yesmissjane)
Wow. I've finished. Now I just need someone to explain this to me.
Jul 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Get set for a wild ride with Alexis Wright’s new novel, The Swan Book! It’s exhilarating, confronting, funny, touching, angry, wise and unforgettable.

I am mildly worried that perhaps I should have re-read it in its entirety more than once before tackling writing about it, because I suspect that repeated readings will reveal all kinds of aspects that I’ve missed or misunderstood. Indeed, I kept thinking of James Joyce’s Ulysses as I read: it has the promise of the same kind of riches that reveal
Ruby  Tombstone [With A Vengeance]
I really wanted to love this book. It has all the elements I'm interested in, but the writing is just terrible. I've noticed since moving to Northern Australia that a lot of people up here only read a few words from every sentence, and assume that they know what comes in between. This book is written in that way. If you just skim the words, you get a feel for what the author's trying to say. If you actually read all of the words, you find that they're often the opposite of the author's intended ...more
Gary Bonn
Mar 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I've just finished this. I must have read hundreds of books over the last 50 years and haven't been so blown away since Titus Groan (Mervyn Peake). Not merely outstanding, this slotted into my top ten before I'd finished the opening.
I don't know where to start except to suggest that, if the opening doesn't grab you, you'd best put the book down. It's not going to be watered down anywhere.
Superbly lyrical and bold, you're walking through a surreal landscape - and yet it is so real. This is a worl
Mar 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Swan Book is set in a future Australia ravaged by climate change. Like sci-fi worlds of a similar vein - Oryx & Crake / Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? - the confronting power of the novel rests in knowing that elements of this dystopian nightmare will come to pass, or have already come to pass. The social and political truths embedded in the narrative, such as the ongoing impact of colonisation on the Aboriginal people of Australia, add a deeper layer of chilling intensity to Wright's ...more
Jan 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
I won't pretend I fully understood everything, but there was a beautiful rhythm to the lyrical prose. It was funny and intense and sharp. It felt really politically astute, too -- Tony Abbott's comments about lifestyle choices could easily have fitted in this novel. It took a long time to read because I needed to give it my full attention and read it chapter by chapter-- not a few pages here and there, and not when I was tired or distracted. ...more
Jan 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: australian-lit
4.5 stars.

Getting through this book was hard work. It's myth and folklore and reality. It's written in English and Waanyi and Latin, and the rules of grammar and syntax are broken at will. It's confronting. It's farcical. It's despairing. It's angry. It's a piss-take. It's future-set but so very current.

This novel challenged me as a reader, as an Australian, as a human being.
Lauren Stoolfire
Jul 19, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, dystopia
I know this has won awards, but this just didn't work for me at all. It's a combination of the rambling purple prose, the minimal plot, and losing interest in the characters very early on in the book. ...more
Seregil of Rhiminee
Originally published at Risingshadow.

Alexis Wright's The Swan Book is a significant addition to literary speculative fiction. It's a genre-bending masterpiece of evocative prose and powerful imagery that blends ancient myths and legends in a powerful and thought-provoking way. It's a novel that has both style and substance.

The Swan Book was originally published in Australia in 2013 and later in Great Britain in 2015. It's great that Atria Books has published it in the USA and expanded its market
Dec 28, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: dystopia, uni
“If you leave here, you know what is going to happen don’t you? People are going to stop and stare at you the very instant they see the colour of your skin, and they will say: She is one of those wild Aboriginals from up North, a terrorist; they will say you are one of those faces kept in the Federal Government’s Book of Suspects."

It is a book that shows us the gloomy future of Australian Aboriginal peoples. It was a difficult reading experience as there are many descriptions and not so many ev
Nhi Le (The Literary Bystander)
I'm so sorry Alexis Wright. As much as I love your richly detailed writing, this book is far too dense for me and my totally fried brain to process right now. Maybe when my life is a little less hectic with uni/assignments and I have much more time to devote myself to it.

Upstairs in my brain, there lives this kond of cut snake virus in its doll's house. Little stars shining over the moonscape garden teinkle endlessly in a crisp sky. The crazy virus just sits there on the couch and keeps a good o
This is a brilliant book.

It's political - telling the story of various Australian governments and the general arrogance and ignorance shown towards Aborigines.

It's a love story - between Oblivia, Swans and the land.

It's about language - Alexis Wright effortlessly uses a variety of English, Aborigine, Latin. French, common speak and in the words of business and politicians.

It's science fiction - based in 100 years time after climate change and various wars have created a world of nomadic people.

James Whitmore
Sep 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I was completely immersed in the language - the poetry, the jolts of vernacular, the flow from one into the other. While the plot follows young Indigenous woman Oblivia Ethyl(ene) when she is removed from her Country, this is really a novel about displacement and belonging for all of us. In a world gone haywire thanks to climate change, nobody belongs anywhere anymore. Everything is foreign - the plagues of wildlife, the once reliable weather, the increasing flood of climate refugees. The settin ...more
Dec 10, 2014 rated it did not like it
I found this novel extremely laborious.

While Wright writes beautiful sentences, the actual prose was so fragmented to the extent that I needed to keep re-reading passages to fully understand what was going on. The sense of place was also incredibly vague.

That's not to say that her writing is without merit or profundity, but the only way I will ever understand this novel is if someone unpacks it for me.

I'm curious to see if her other novels are as abstract as this one.
Octavia Cade
Hands down the finest novel I've read in 2014. Deeply original, and the language is just so beautiful. Words you can sink into, words you can dream about. Climate change and swan stories and race relations in future Australia. Dense and ambiguous and challenging. I was sorry when it ended. ...more
I can't read it. I've tried. I've tried the paper book. Abandoned. So I've tried the audio book, abandoned and actually annoyed by it.
I am sorry. I have had this in my list for a while. I have loved many of the authors books before. But
This one is either not for me or the wrong time.
Cara G
Sep 01, 2014 rated it it was amazing
loved it but I need to think about it for awhile.
Tanya (aka ListObsessedReader)
Well, I've finished! And right now I have NO idea how to rate this! Hopefully more thoughts to follow. ...more
Excoriating, rage-filled, deeply uncomfortable.
Apr 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Swan Book is a difficult read. There are metaphors within metaphors, literary references referring back to various cultures and ages.

Broadly, The Swan Book follows the life of an Aboriginal girl, Oblivia Ethyl(ene) Oblivion. Oblivia is rescued as a child from a hollow treetrunk and grows up living in the hull of a ship in a semi-dried lake, being raised by a white woman, Bella Donna. The community seems to be a mixture of exiled aborigines, deemed troublesome by the authorities, and migrants
Jan 08, 2015 rated it liked it
The Swan Book is set in a dystopian future where climate change has wreaked havoc on the Australian (and international) landscape. The countryside is dominated by insects and rodents and those that feed on them; the weather is drastic and erratic, floods are interspersed with drought.

The book is centred on Oblivia, a young girl who, after being gang raped, went missing for some time from a remote Aboriginal community. Oblivia chooses to be mute after her traumatic experience – she can’t even rem
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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

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