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3.53  ·  Rating details ·  2,438 ratings  ·  338 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
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published January 1st 2008 by Knopf Publishing Group
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Average rating 3.53  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,438 ratings  ·  338 reviews

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May 20, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2019, modern-lit
An interesting and sometimes moving historical novel in which Flanagan's fiction is mostly in imagining the details behind real historical events.

This book has two distinct strands, linked by the explorer Lord Franklin, who served as governor of Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania) in the 1840s, where he and his second wife Jane adopted a young Aboriginal girl Mathinna, who is one of the book's two main characters.

The other main character is Charles Dickens, who met the actress Ellen Ternan, who bec
Diane S ☔
Jul 14, 2013 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 Franklin 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
Jan 08, 2010 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
Feb 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: australian
Charles Dickens, in domestic despond. Lady Jane Franklin, childless, and now a husband lost. Mathinna, her bare feet searching for answers in the aboriginal muck. All wanting.

Like Colum McCann, Richard Flanagan here takes the threads of historical moments and splices them thematically. The writing is superb. I fairly inhaled this.

Feb 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating read! Flanagan at his best!
Sep 17, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Kara 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
I had a love/hate relationship with this beautifully written book. Though, after thinking about it, I am liking it much more. I approached it as historical fiction, and got distracted thinking what is fact or fiction, and also by the life of Dickens. Dora's death had similar impacts on Dickens as Willie on Lincoln. Instead should have just gone along for the ride, as I did when I recently read Lincoln in the Bardo and enjoy the experience of Wanting as great literary fiction.
Roger Brunyate
Aug 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: australia-nz, race
On the Death of Children

This extraordinary novel is framed by the death of two children. Near the beginning, in 1851, Charles Dickens' ninth and youngest child Dora dies while her father is speaking on behalf of a theatrical charity. A few pages later there is reference to the death of another child, an aboriginal girl in distant Van Diemen's Land (Tasmania) called Mathinna. The book proceeds in alternating chapters in two converging time periods, moving on from Dora's death and forward to Mathi
Apr 21, 2012 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
Jul 05, 2014 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
Dec 03, 2008 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
Marguerite Kaye
Aug 02, 2015 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
Mar 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Pieces of this strange novel take place at the antipodes: Britain and Tasmania. On one hand, there is the Tasmanian Aborigine girl Mathinna with her oddly winning ways, being pursued by the childless wife of Sir John Franklin, the Arctic explorer. On the other is Charles Dickens, giving up on her wife Catherine, with whom he had ten children, and taking up with the fetching young actress Ellen Ternan.

I had read Richard Flanagan's great novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North a couple months ago.
Jennifer (JC-S)
Sep 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
‘We have in our lives only a few moments.’

This novel, set in the 19th century, contains separate but connected stories involving a number of historical figures and events. These include Sir John Franklin, Lieutenant-Governor of Van Diemen’s Land (later Tasmania); his wife Lady Jane Franklin, George Augustus Robinson (Chief Protector of Aborigines), Mathinna, an aboriginal girl adopted by the Franklins, and the novelists Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins.

A policy of removal of Van Diemonian abo
Ron Charles
Jan 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
The story of a girl subjected to a deadly social experiment more than century ago has haunted the Tasmanian novelist Richard Flanagan for decades. As a young man, he was looking at some early-19th-century paintings at the Hobart Museum, when he spotted a watercolor of a child in a pretty red dress. The curator explained that she was Mathinna, an aboriginal child taken in by the renowned Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin in the 1830s while he was lieutenant governor of Tasmania, then called Van D ...more

Writing 5
Story line 4
Characters 5
Emotional impact 5

Overall rating 4.75
Nancy Oakes
Mar 11, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
Sep 23, 2009 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.
Jan 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
tbh Charles Dickens is really gross
TBV (on semi-hiatus)
'Leda’ is what the Protector at Wybalenna named the little Aboriginal girl. However, when he discovers his ignorance of the Leda and the Swan myth, he quickly reverts to her birth name, Mathinna. There are several allusions to the myth in this beautiful historical novel.

Lady Franklin, wife of the new Governor of Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania) who is none other than the intrepid explorer Sir John Franklin, persuades her husband to adopt the cute little girl Mathinna. She makes it her project “T
After near inhaling The Terror, I was totally consumed by the Franklin expedition, wanting to know anything about it that I could, and this is what my library had to offer. I don't know why I listened until the end, probably a mixture of false hope and laziness, but I hardly enjoyed a minute of this. The novel is split in twain: following John Franklin (then governor of Tasmania) and his wife as they adapt and then discard an Aboriginal girl Mathinna; and then Charles Dickens who meets Lady Jane ...more
Stan  Prager
May 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Review of: Wanting, by Richard Flanagan
by Stan Prager (5-14-19)

Tasmanian author Richard Flanagan has written seven novels, one of which—Gould’s Book of Fish—I would rank among the very finest of twenty-first century literature to date. I primarily read books of history, biography and science these days, but I do stray to the realm of fiction from time to time. When I happen upon a writer whose literary output not only consistently transcends the best published fiction of its day, but is so icon
Betty Asma
Sep 03, 2015 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
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
Gemma Nugent
Apr 24, 2013 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
Jul 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017, books-i-respect
'Yet how often it it that we have to do violence to our feelings, and hide our hearts in carrying on this fight of life, so we can bravely discharge our duties and responsibilities.'

I have seldom read a work as poetic and filled with pathos as this.

Lady Jane remembered once saying the child's body thought.

But she was a blind woman staring. Shoving her feet deeper and deeper, she knew it was true: she could feel nothing.
Mr Francis Lazaretto. Garney Walch. Their reappearance in the
Dec 21, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Bettie by: Pressie from Clare

The war had ended as wars sometimes do, unexpectedly.

Page 198 - It was 1844. The last pair of great auks in the world had just been killed, Friedrich Nietzsche born, and Samuel Morse sent the first electrical communication in history. It was a telegram that read: 'What hath God wrought'.
Oct 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites, 2009
My favourite Flanagan( unless I already called Death of a river guide my favourite!).
Glen U
Oct 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Richard Flanagan is a writer for the ages. From his debut piece, "Death of a River Guide", through "The Sound of One Hand Clapping", and then my favorite, "Gould's Book of Fish", Flanagan continues to amaze and enchant the reading audience. For me, his one hiccough was "The Unknown Terrorist", even though it was critically acclaimed. Having skipped "Wanting" and reading his Man Booker Prize winning "The Narrow Road to the Deep North", I was again amazed at this authors writing abilities. After t ...more
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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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