Humour, hope relieve tensions
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