Book Review: The Swan Book, Alexis Wright

Buy this book.

It is brilliant.

Beautiful, tragic and breath-taking, The Swan Book is possibly one of the best science fiction novels I have ever read (although I’ve got the feeling I’ll be saying that more and more often as my Year of Reading Women keeps going.)

Oblivia, the protagonist of The Swan Book, is a young girl, found inside the trunk of an ancient tree by the only white woman in town, the mad Aunty Bella Donna of the Champions.

“Locked in the world of sleep, only the little girl’s fingers were constantly moving, in slow swirls like music. She was writing stanzas in ancient symbols whereever she could touch – on the palms of her hands, and all over the tree root’s dust covered surfaces.”

I feel like I could quote from this novel all day.

It reminds me of the deep understanding of both humanity and of the modern world that you’ll find in Murakami’s Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, as well as the ancient-and-modern-landscape-combinations and surreality of The City of Saints and Madmen (high praise – I love Saints and Madmen.)

It made me feel almost deliriously happy, thanks to the beautiful combinations of brilliant prose and of the teasing, twisting poetry. It made me feel guilty, as a white Australian, of the Intervention and of our treatment of Aboriginals in general. It is powerful, on the topic of Aboriginal rights and their mistreatment, on the subject of boat-people and refugees and their mistreatment, on the feelings of a little girl, abused and forgotten. The mingling of Aboriginal songlines and the descriptions of birds in particular are poetically gorgeous.

It also reminds me (in the best possible way) of Kafka and Borges – I cannot recommend The Swan Book any more than I do. It is brilliant, absolutely brilliant.

Buy it, read it.

If I didn’t feel like giving The Swan Book six stars was cheating I’d give it seven.

Buy it!

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5 thoughts on “Book Review: The Swan Book, Alexis Wright

  1. […] you’re desperately wrong. Let me point you toward Margaret Atwood, Ursula K Le Guin or Alexis Wright. And if you refuse (as some people do) I’ll tell you to go fuck yourself. You’re not […]

  2. […] a more literary and science fictional note, Chris White reviewed The Swan Book by Alexis Wright. Set in the near future, it focuses on Aboriginal people […]

  3. […] White’s review of The Swan Book begins: “Buy this book. It is brilliant.” White continues: “Beautiful, […]

  4. […] Chris White reviewed Alexis Wright’s The Swan Book, which is about a girl, Oblivia, surviving in a world altered by climate change.  The book inspired a variety of emotion, leaving Chris ‘deliriously happy, thanks to the beautiful combinations of brilliant prose and of the teasing, twisting poetry. It made me feel guilty, as a white Australian, of the Intervention and of our treatment of Aboriginals in general’.  Chris’ final recommendation – ‘If I didn’t feel like giving The Swan Book six stars was cheating I’d give it seven’ – should persuade anyone to pick up this novel! […]

  5. […] Swan Book has been reviewed many times by AWW Challenge paritcipants including Chris White who found it “beautiful, tragic and breathtaking saying of it: Buy this book. It is brilliant. It […]

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