by Richard Flanagan


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Internationally acclaimed and profoundly moving, Richard Flanagan’s Wanting is a stunning tale of colonialism, ambition, and the lusts and longings that make us human. Now in paperback, it links two icons of Western civilization through a legendarily disastrous arctic exploration, and one of the most infamous episodes in human history: the colonization of Tasmania.
In 1841, Sir John Franklin and his wife, Lady Jane, move to the remote penal colony of Van Diemen’s Land, now Tasmania. There Lady Jane falls in love with a lively aboriginal girl, Mathinna, whom she adopts and makes the subject of a grand experiment in civilization—one that will determine whether science, Christianity, and reason can be imposed in the place of savagery, impulse, and desire.
A quarter of a century passes. Sir John Franklin disappears in the Arctic with his crew and two ships on an expedition to find the fabled Northwest Passage. England is horrified by reports of cannibalism filtering back from search parties, no one more so than the most celebrated novelist of the day, Charles Dickens. As Franklin’s story becomes a means to plumb the frozen depths of his own life, Dickens finds a young actress thawing his heart.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802144775
Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date: 06/03/2010
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 480,111
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.80(d)

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Wanting 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
jaimi1 More than 1 year ago
After reading the first view pages, it seemed that the book was going to be dry in the sense of having very little feeling or emotion. It turned out to be the opposite. The author evoked emotions of anger and sadness and I kept thinking that throughout the centuries western culture has continued to control the lives of other humans which usually results in tragedy. The author has shown this very clearly and is to be commended on it. That is why it is such a good novel.
cloggiedownunder More than 1 year ago
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 red silk dress she was given, but hated wearing shoes. She wanted to learn to write because she knew there was magic in it. “Dear Father, I am a good little girl. I do love my father. ……come and see mee my father. ……I have got sore feet and shoes and stockings and I am very glad……..Please sir come back from the hunt. I am here yrs daughter MATHINNA”. But when her (dead) father failed to come to her after several letters, her passion for writing faded. “And when she discovered her letters stashed in a pale wooden box….she felt not the pain of deceit for which she had no template, but the melancholy of disillusionment”. In tandem with Mathinna’s story, Flanagan relates incidents in the life of Charles Dickens, some twenty years later. The tenuous link between the two narratives is this: when Sir John Franklin is missing in the Arctic on his search for the North West Passage, Lady Jane asks Dickens to help refute allegations of cannibalism made by explorer, Dr John Rae. Dickens also writes and stars in a play about Franklin’s lost expedition, during which he meets Ellen Ternan, the woman for whom he leaves his wife. Flanagan’s interpretation of Mathinna’s life is certainly interesting: his extensive research into the lifestyle and common practices in the colony in the mid-nineteenth century is apparent, and he portrays very powerfully the mindset that led to the virtual extermination of the native population. While the Dickens narrative does have interesting aspects, it is so far removed from the Tasmanian story as to seem somewhat irrelevant, more of an interruption than an enhancement. Flanagan states in his Author’s Note that “The stories of Mathinna and Dickens, with their odd but undeniable connection, suggested to me a meditation on desire-the cost of its denial, the centrality and force of its power in human affairs. That, and not history, is the true subject of Wanting”. Perhaps this statement would be better placed in a preface so that readers do not find themselves distracted wondering about the relevance of the Dickens narrative. Excellent prose make this, nonetheless, a powerful read.
jeniwren on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The author has once again set his story in 19th century Tasmania where the Governor of Tasmania Sir John with his wife Lady Jane adopt a young aboriginal girl in an experiment to take the native out of Mathinna. When the experiment fails and Sir John disappears in the Arctic a decade later Lady Jane seeks Charles Dickens to clear his name after accusations of cannibalism. The story's focus is on desire and how this can have tragic consequences. An interesting story, beautifully written and I would be so happy to see this win the Miles Franklin Award which is to be announced this week.
bhowell on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
"Wanting" is a fabulous read. I absolutely loved it. The story moves back and forth from Victorian London to the remote penal colony of Van Dieman's Land ( Tasmania) and stars Sir John Franklin, Charles Dickens, and Wilkie Collins. The prose is beautiful and literary but the story keeps you reading frantically. This is the first book I have read by Richard Flanigan. I have had his previous novel, "Gould's Book of Fish" (which won the Commonwealth Writers Prize) for several years and always meant to read it but now I am going to dive right in.
jasonlf on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The books are both well written but therin lies the problem. Wanting is composed of two parallel stories: one of Charles Dickens between the time his daughter died and the time he met the actress Ellen Ternan. The other is Sir John Franklin, his wife Jane, and the aborigine girl Matthina they adopt in Van Dimen's island as it was then called. The Dickens book was reasonably routine, reading more like biography than novel. The Franklin book -- or really the Matthina book -- was more fascinating, especially the heartbreaking description of a girl who goes from exiled aborigine to adopted daughter to ignored daughter to abandoned. The problem was that I didn't find these two stories worked well together and that having them in one cover subtracted rather than added.That said, would still recommend this book to anyone and would look forward to reading more by Richard Flanagan.
ElizaJane on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When all is said and done this is a strange little story. It is two stories in one; first that of the past where Sir John Franklin is the Lieutenant-Governor with Lady Jane Franklin of Van Diemen's Land (currently Tasmania, Australia) and how they come to 'adopt' a little Aborigine girl to prove that a savage can be civilized. Then there is the story of the future, one where Lady Jane, whose husband has now been missing for 9 nine years and she beseeches Charles Dickens to write an article squashing the horrible rumours of cannibalism among her husbands' last crew. This he does but the story does not centre on that but on the relationship between himself and Ellen Ternan.The story set in the past of Sir John, Lady Jane and Mathinna, the little black girl, is very absorbing and could have been a book itself without the other half of the 'future' plot. What Lady Jane did from the goodness of her heart turned against all those concerned and became a tragedy. The added story of Dickens really felt out of place here; it's only connection to the other story is that Lady Jane appears at the beginning and at the end, plus the plot revolves around the time when Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins were putting on their play, No Frozen Deep, concerning a melodramatic love story set on an Arctic exploration. I can't say I enjoyed this second part of the story at all, it seemed pointless to the plot.The book is told in chapters which suddenly switch back and forth from one plot to another going from the past to the future willy nilly, which creates a somewhat dizzying affect to the reader until one has settled down into the style. The writing is good, the story is fast-paced and easy to read and certainly a page-turner during the Mathinna scenes.But ultimately the theme of this book is not the plot but that of the title, "wanting". Everyone in this story is wanting love. Sir John wants the love of a woman as Lady Jane makes it known early in the marriage that she finds wifely duties distasteful. Lady Jane wants maternal love, though she succumbs to her wifely duties at such times as necessary she is rewarded with being barren. Mathinna wants the love of belonging. She is a black who acts too white to be accepted by the blacks and feels the thoughts of a white but of course is black and will not be accepted by the whites . Then we have Charles Dickens who desperately wants the love of Ellen. A young, coquette who, in this book, is the first person to ever truly understand him. In truth their relationship has never really been firmly decided one way or the other.An interesting, quick read but I found the whole Charles Dickens aspect of the story to be irrelevant to the plot and could have been left out entirely to leave a much more satisfying story of the Franklins' "experiment' in raising Mathinna and the tragedy it became.
heathereb on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A fascinating read! Flanagan is able to build on a small link between Charles Dickens and a little known Aboriginal girl to build a rich and passionate story. The tragedy of the treatment of Tasmanian aborigines is revealed through Mathinna's adoption by the Governor and his wife, and her subsequent 'fall from grace'. A touching story which haunts the reader long after the book is put away. Flanagan has a special touch and can tell a story without moralizing, but certainly causing food for thought.
idiotgirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Read this on Kindle. Turns out it's not available in hard cover yet. I think this is a very good book. Certainly based on an amazing "true" story: "Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin and Charles Dickens. In 1839 Tasmania, a tribe of Aboriginals are in the Van Diemen's Land penal colony, soon to be governed by Franklin and his wife, Lady Jane. The Franklins adopt a native girl, Mathinna, whom Lady Jane hopes to use as proof that civility lies in all human beings, even savages. Years later, in 1854 London, Lady Jane asks Charles Dickens to help defend her late husband's honor from accusations of cannibalism. Dickens, devastated by his daughter's death from pneumonia, publishes a defense of Franklin's honor, then develops a stage adaptation of Franklin's demise that forces the writer to face his suffering and introduces him to a comely young actress."An imagined scenario interlacing a story of Charles Dickens and 19th century Australian outback would be just too much. Flanagan manages to intertwine them. And connect the story around desire. Perhaps not always subtle. But striking and always interesting. I have two more novels that are "historical fiction" with Dickens as a character. Somehow I suspect that this one will end up being 1 of 3 by far.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago