“‘She is exasperation,’ said Lady Jane.
‘It is beyond explanation,’ replied Sir John.”

“A small girl ran fit to burst through wallaby grass almost as high as her. How she loved the sensation of the soft threads of fine grass feathering beads of water onto her calves, and the feel of the earth beneath her bare feet, wet and mushy in winter, dry and dusty. She was seven years old, the earth was still new and extraordinary in its delights, the earth still ran up through her feet to her head into the sun, and it was as possible to be exhilarated by running as it was to be terrified by the reason she had to run and not stop running.”

Is it too obvious to say that Richard Flanagan is a writer? I mean, he can write. As in, write words, sentences, paragraphs, pages, that I want to reread. Are all his books like that? Or did I happen to chance on a good one? Because Wanting is a pretty damn good one. It has its feet in real life, in history, in Lady Jane and Sir John Franklin, polar explorer and governor of Van Diemen’s Land (aka Tasmania), in Mathinna, the aboriginal girl they adopt and attempt to raise as a sort of experiment, in Charles Dickens and his friend Wilkie Collins (they were friends? See one can learn from novels too).

Here’s the end of chapter one:

“It was 1839. The first photograph of a man was taken, Abd al-Qadir declared a jihad against the French, and Charles Dickens was rising to greater fame with a novel called Oliver Twist. It was, through the Protector, as he closed the ledger after another post mortem report and returned to preparing notes for his pneumatics lecture, inexplicable.”

And the end of chapter two:

“It was 1851. London’s Great Exhibition celebrated the triumph of reason in a glass pavilion mocked by the writer Douglas Jerrold as a crystal palace; a novel about finding a fabled white whale was published in New York to failure; while in the iron-grey port of Stomness, Orkney, Lady Jane Franklin farewelled into whiteness the second of what were to be numerous failed expeditions in search of a fable that had once been her husband.”

You know how celebrity appearances on talk shows can sometimes change your mind about them (or maybe you don’t care, I dunno, but it does sometimes for me. Like I never really minded Cameron Diaz or Lea Michele till I saw them on UK’s Top Gear and Conan O’Brien respectively, and then decidedly didn’t like them at all)? Well, in this case, I want to know more about Wilkie Collins and Charles Dickens – and read more of their work (I have to admit that I have yet to finish anything by Collins. Then again, the only one I’ve attempted is The Moonstone, and I think I was attempting to read it on my iPod Touch. I know you guys would probably recommend The Woman in White, and hopefully I’ll get to it soon!). But back to my point. I want to read more from the guy who is described as such:

“Wilkie Collins had a very large head that teetered on a particularly small body, and the oddity of his looks was accentuated by a bulging left temple and a depressed right temple, so that viewed from one side he seemed a rather different man than viewed from the other.”

Heh. I quite like that one. But I think this is one of my favourite passages (and I’m going to leave you with a few more, which I copied out and typed out and pretty much exhausted my 20 minutes’ worth of baby napping time this morning, I reckon):

“We have in our lives only a few moments. A moment of joy or wonder with another. Some might say beauty or transcendence. Some might say all those things. Then you reach an age… and you realise that moment, or, if you are very lucky, a handful of those moments, was your life. That those moments are all, and that they are everything. And yet we persist in thinking that such moments will only have worth if we can make them go on forever. We should live for moments, yet we are so fraught in pursuing everything else, with the future, with the anchors that pull us down, so busy that we sometimes don’t even see the moments for what they are. We leave a sick child in order to make a speech.”

“In his final agony, Sir John’s thoughts were only of catching birds with a small dark girl who still laughed at him, and his head momentarily filled with the improbable smell of a world that he now recalled as Eden after rain.”

“She traveled the world now, her vengeance on her husband’s obstinacy applauded as noble grief, her part as loyal widow having emancipated her from mean and allowing her freedoms few other women could imagine. Her life, as a studied melancholy, she savored. To admit to happiness would have been inappropriate, but as her cursing driver sought a way around, she believed herself to be fulfilled.”

Title: Wanting
Author: Richard Flanagan (Author’s website)
Published in: 2008
Bibliography (taken from Wikipedia):

(1985) A terrible beauty: history of the Gordon River country
(1990) The Rest of the world is watching – Tasmania and the Greens
(1991) Codename Iago: the story of John Friedrich
(1991) Parish-Fed Bastards. A History of the Politics of the Unemployed in Britain, 1884-1939


Death of a River Guide (1994)
The Sound of One Hand Clapping (1997)
Gould’s Book of Fish: A Novel in Twelve Fish (2001)
The Unknown Terrorist (2006)
Wanting (2008)


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