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That Deadman Dance


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Born in 1947, Kim Scott's ancestral Noongar country is the south-east coast of Western Australia between Gairdner River and Cape Arid. His cultural Elders use the term Wirlomin to refer to their clan, and the Norman Tindale nomenclature identifies people of this area as Wudjari/Koreng. Kim's professional background is in education and the arts. He is the author of two novels, True Country and Benang, poetry and numerous pieces of short fiction.


This is a novel from a different time in which relationships between colonists and indigenous people were friendly and each was curious about the other's culture. Set in early 19th-century Western Australia, the novel is based roughly on historical accounts, some of which involve Scott's own ancestors. It depicts contact among Aboriginal people, the Noongar, and British colonists and American whalers. The central character is a Noongar youth, Bobby Wabalanginy, who warmly embraces the settlers and their ways but ultimately has to choose between them and his own people as the coastal colony grows. The nuanced characterization and intriguing style of writing are pleasures. VERDICT Scott, who won both Australia's Victorian Prize for Literature and his second Miles Franklin Literary Award for this work, deserves notice from a broader international audience. This well-written, insightful novel will be enjoyed by readers interested in Australian historical fiction, indigenous literature, and postcolonial fiction in general. [See Prepub Alert, 8/15/11.]-Gwen Vredevoogd, Marymount Univ. Lib., Marshall, VA (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Australian novelist Scott's (Benang) complex Commonwealth-winning (South East Asia/Pacific Region) third novel begins in 1833 with Bobby Wabalanginy, part of the Aboriginal Noongar people, befriending early white English settlers who've arrived in southern Australia to establish the port of King George Town. Among his white associates are the military surgeon Dr. Joseph Cross, the merchant Geordie Chaine, and Chaine's young daughter, Christine, who Bobby perhaps likes too much. Characterized by Dr. Cross as "animated and theatrical," Bobby maintains an upbeat attitude that will serve him well once race relations sour. Until he dies, Cross is a mentor to Bobby, and then the Chaines fill the position. Short, titled chapters group into four parts demarcated by sweeps of nonlinear time, from two years to four. Always piquant and lyrical, with some Aboriginal dialect words translated and some not, Scott is at his most picturesque when Bobby assists the whalers, bringing boom times to "blackfellas" and "whitefellas" alike. The historical interaction between these two cultures in a changing 19th-century Australia is given full play in Scott's ambitious, elegiac storytelling (the author's mother is white and his father Aboriginal). Agent: Kathleen Anderson, Anderson Literary Management. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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