In the Wilds of Tasmania, the Impacts of Empire
'A historical novel about a young aborigine girl adopted and later abandoned by a 19th century governor of Van Diemen’s Land, now known as Tasmania.
Author photo by Colin MacDougall
By Richard Flanagan
256 pages. Atlantic Monthly Press. $24.
The English characters in “Wanting” value their sense of themselves as decent, godly Christians: exemplars of English goodness, English valor and English rectitude — “emissaries of God, science, justice.” They describe the aborigines they are fighting in Tasmania and Australia as “wild blacks” and those who collaborate with them as “tame blacks.” The more gung-ho want to exterminate the natives; the kindlier ones see them as “objects of the greatest commiseration” and aim to lift them up out of savagery and turn them into replica Englishmen.