Hu­mour, hope re­lieve ten­sions

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books -

That Dead­man the pos­si­bil­i­ties of the Aus­tralian novel. So it is with great in­ter­est that I ap­proached his new book, Taboo.

The good news is Scott is in as fine a form as ever. This is a pacy, smart book with a sur­pris­ing sense of for­ward mo­men­tum. Mo­men­tum hasn’t al­ways been Scott’s pri­or­ity, given the joy he finds in di­gres­sions of all kinds, but the nar­ra­tive in Taboo is con­stantly build­ing to­wards some­thing. Tragedy? Epiphany? I won’t spoil the story, but there is a good deal of plea­sure to be had in watch­ing this in­tri­cate plot un­fold as you wait to find out where it will take you.

The story starts with Dan Hor­ton, an old farmer in the West Aus­tralian town of Kepalup. His prop­erty takes in a 19th cen­tury Abo­rig­i­nal mas­sacre site. A rec­on­cil­i­a­tion-themed Peace Park is soon to be opened in Kepalup and when Dan learns the Noon­gar del­e­ga­tion in town for the grand open­ing wants to visit his prop­erty, he is equal parts ex­cited and wor­ried.

He isn’t com­fort­able with the idea that fron­tier con­flict took place on his land, given the im­pli­ca­tions it has for the present day. But he is sym­pa­thetic to the needs of the Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­nity and un­der­stands their con­nec­tion to coun­try, a con­nec­tion he feels as well. So he in­vites some of the Noon­gar on to his prop­erty to let them visit the taboo site.

This is the mo­ment when we meet the key Abo­rig­i­nal char­ac­ters: the twin brothers Ger­rard and Ger­ald and the teenager Tilly. The two Ger­rys in par­tic­u­lar have a ter­rific sense of mis­chief and fun about them. They are men with a deep knowl­edge of lan­guage and cul­ture but it’s some­thing they wear lightly. For them be­ing a Noon­gar man means be­ing gen­er­ous with what

Award-win­ning author Kim Scott has en­larged the pos­si­bil­i­ties of the Aus­tralian novel

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