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3.61  ·  Rating details ·  814 ratings  ·  122 reviews
Hailed as a "literary sensation" by The New York Times Book Review, Carpentaria is the luminous award-winning novel by Australian Aboriginal writer and activist Alexis Wright.

Alexis Wright employs mysticism, stark reality, and pointed imagination to re-create the land and the Aboriginal people of Carpentaria.

In the sparsely populated northern Queensland town of Desperance
Paperback, 520 pages
Published 2006 by Giramondo
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3.61  · 
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 ·  814 ratings  ·  122 reviews

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Sean Barrs the Bookdragon
Carpentaria is an aboriginal epic; it’s a soaring story full of imagination that gives voice to Australia’s Indigenous population, though it is also horribly uncomfortable to read and even harder to enjoy.

Alexis Wright works directly with oral tradition, with folktale and myth, to interpose her narrative with as much authenticity as possible; she brings tribal legends into the modern space, asserting how important such things are to the remaining members of the civilisations that were almost de
May 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This baffling, dreamlike epic rushes you up in a semi-conscious swirl of language into the wild tropical north of Australia, where Queensland sweeps round to cradle an armful of the Pacific in the form of the Gulf of Carpentaria – a land of savannas and tropical cyclones, of eucalypts and estuary streams, melaleucas, songlines, unscrupulous mining corporations, and back-country bogan settlements.

The Gulf country is also the homeland of the Waanyi people, from whom Alexis Wright is descended on h
Nov 02, 2011 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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 27, 2011 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
Aug 03, 2017 marked it as did-not-finish
A very Australian book, Aussie FNQ humour. But unfortunately it's not for me.
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
May 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, literature
“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
"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
Apr 01, 2014 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
Jun 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: australia, fiction
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
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.
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
Feb 10, 2014 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.
Jan 20, 2013 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
Dianna Applebaum
May 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Hold onto your seats for this one; it provides one hell of a convoluted and challenging ride and I'm so glad I took it. I can see why it wouldn't be for everyone because it is quite loquacious. It is unforgiving and unapologetic in pointing the finger at European colonisation of Australia. It is a mystical tale, compressing time into time, where past, present and future are one. I found it abrasively beautiful and took heart in the subversion of dispossession where Indigenous sovereignty is hono ...more
Mar 13, 2015 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.
Oct 12, 2015 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!
Apr 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Magic realism which isn't my favourite genre but in this case it works. Almost a dream time story in itself. The eccentric characters of the pricklebush clan will stay with you.
Sep 17, 2018 rated it it was ok
It's hard to connect with the characters when the reading process basically reduces to struggling to make sense of what is going on.
An incredibly fascinating book nevertheless.
Mar 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing

Carpentaria is an impossible book. It is so packed with real people and large ideas and beautiful images, it is so full and so original, it is hard to think of what to compare it to. It is a very dense book.

Wright draws together many strands of mythology. There are Dreamings, and family histories, and politics, Christianity and classical music woven throughout. She telescopes time. The book seems to take place in an eternal present, where everything is simultaneous, and it can take a bit of gett

Nathan Chattaway
Sep 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Surreal and all too real at the same time. Fantastic!
Eleanor O'Keeffe
Feb 08, 2019 rated it liked it
I started reading this book wrong.

It's such an obstinately opaque book, so stuffed of multiple levels of story, that it can't easily be picked up and put down for the length of a quick lunch or a short commute. The Aboriginal characters are at ease with the dead and the living and the spirits co-existing. They're at ease with sailing out on a small boat to find a particular patch of water they've never been to, because they memorised a story as told to them by an elder. The white Australians in
Boy Blue
Oct 30, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, lit-fic
Carpentaria is the story of the Pricklebush mob living on the outskirts of the town of Desperance in the Gulf of Carpentaria. It's the story of Norm Phantom, his wife Angel Day and their progeny, particularly Will Phantom. Norm has a deep understanding of his country and the sea, and that gives him what appears to be supernatural powers. His communication and interpretation of the dreamtime allows him to navigate and thrive off his country like no other. His ability to use star maps, currents, s ...more
Sep 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
Gee I love how uncompromising this book is. It will make you work hard, and it's 519 pages to boot. Which translated for me into taking a month to read.

This is a quantum-entangled, remote-viewing/magically realist world where the land is a character of its own. For some people its non-westernness may be too much, and for others it might be what keeps you reading.

What I love most is how this book left me feeling at the end, when after spending all this time trying to form what I'm reading into a
Dan Sherrell
Mar 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
A genius book, like García Marquez for Australia, but weirder and funnier, full of massive characters and sentences that break all the rules of syntax but still land on their feet. Still processing the sheer magnitude of life rippling through Carpentaria, but this feels true: there is a special magic to this book that Wright derives from a deep connection to country, the ability to see the secret forms and spells and histories hidden beneath what the rest of call land.
Apr 28, 2008 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
Nov 16, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: school-books
God, I hate this book. I can see how others might enjoy it and it's not an Objectively Bad book, but it was basically just everything I don't like in a book, and lacked everything that I personally look for in good novels.
The biggest turn-off for me was the characters and their relationships. I don't mind not liking characters, as long as it's fun and rewarding to hate them. These characters were just...nothing. I spent 500 pages with them but I still feel like I don't know them at all. And the
Dec 29, 2012 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
May 24, 2016 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
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Books I Want To T...: General Discussion - Carpentaria 2 13 Nov 27, 2008 12:59AM  

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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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