Wanting – Richard Flanagan

In 1844, Sir John Franklin and his wife were starting a colonial life of sorts on Van Diemen’s Land, a remote Australian island where they are attempting to teach the aboriginals a more refined type of culture with living in real houses, eating food that is new to them, learning new ways.

Lady Jane, however, is enamoured with a young Aboriginal girl Mathina; as time goes on they adopt her and attempt to raise her as their own kind.  She likes the thought of going back to civilization with a black girl, but once she is in the house and living with them, she isn’t so sure.

25 years later, Sir John’s ship that he is travelling to the South Pole on disappears attempting to find the Northwest Passage.  Rumours of cannibalism coming from the search parties frighten and have them think that the men who went on the ships were insane, bringing fear to all.

Charles Dickens is not shocked, but appalled at what he is reading in the paper.  He composes a letter to the paper debating the facts of the original story that had printed; even more intriguing than the original story published.

At around the same time, Dickens is evaluating his own home life with his wife and children.  They would have had many more, but because of many miscarriages and young deaths of children have given them a shroud of grief around their home.  He thinks of how it was before, His wife thinks about all the suffering she has accepted as part of her life being a wife and mother.  The work of just doing household duties, although, her back is in so much pain from having children.

With all the tragicness of the events happening in these three stories, it becomes a personal voyage for the reader to actually look back at their lives to date, what we have done, what is yet to be accomplished in the future.
Desire and denial of it, the why and the reasons why shapes our lives for good or bad.

Is wanting something or someone worth the risk? Are we being selfish to want the things we want when we want it? Have we thought through exactly what we want to be getting out of life; or to want to fight for it tooth and nail at any cost to make it?

This is a book I have read for the IMAP Reading Challenge that is being sponsored by HarperCollins Canada.


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