Taboo

Kim Scott, 1957-

Book - 2019

Taboo takes place in the present day, in the rural South-West of Western Australia, and tells the story of a group of Noongar people who revisit, for the first time in many decades, a taboo place: the site of a massacre that followed the assassination, by these Noongar's descendants, of a white man who had stolen a black woman. They come at the invitation of Dan Horton, the elderly owner of the farm on which the massacres unfolded. He hopes that by hosting the group he will satisfy his wife...'s dying wishes and cleanse some moral stain from the ground on which he and his family have lived for generations. But the sins of the past will not be so easily expunged. We walk with the ragtag group through this taboo country and note in them glimmers of re-connection with language, lore, country. We learn alongside them how countless generations of Noongar may have lived in ideal rapport with the land. Taboo won four literary awards, was longlisted for four and shortlisted for three more. It is a novel of survival and renewal, as much as destruction; and, ultimately, of hope as much as despair.

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Subjects
Published
Easthampton, MA : Small Beer Press 2019.
Edition
First Small Beer Press edition
Language
English
Physical Description
287 pages ; 23 cm
ISBN
9781618731692
1618731696
Main Author
Kim Scott, 1957- (author)
Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

In this assured, complex novel, Scott (True Country) delves into the fraught history of race relations in Western Australia. Dan Horton welcomes a group of Wirlomin Aboriginal Australians to visit the site on his property where his white family slaughtered the Wirlomins' ancestors generations ago. The exact nature of the slaughter is in dispute—"There were so many different stories about what happened here," Dan says early on—and indeed, the novel dramatizes the slippery nature of truth. Dan hopes that with the opening of a "Peace Park" to commemorate the tragedy, he and the Wirlomin "might find their way forward together." One of the Aborigines to visit is Tilly, a mixed-race orphan whom Dan briefly fostered as a baby and whose father died in jail. She is seeking to connect to a family and a cultural tradition. Also among the group is Gerald, recently released from prison and undaunted by the taboo nature of the site. The reconciliation effort produces misunderstanding, resentment, and the threat of violence, but also offers the native people hope that "the dead will return, transformed, to support us again and from within." Scott's novel memorably describes this dramatic resurrection and the enduring power of ancestral traditions. (Sept.) Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

A century after a rural Western Australian massacre, a group of Noongar people are invited back to where it happened.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

From Kim Scott, two-times winner of the Miles Franklin Literary Award, comes a work charged with ambition and poetry, in equal parts brutal, mysterious and idealistic, about a young woman cast into a drama that has been playing for over two hundred years . . .

Taboo takes place in the present day, in the rural South-West of Western Australia, and tells the story of a group of Noongar people who revisit, for the first time in many decades, a taboo place: the site of a massacre that followed the assassination, by these Noongar's descendants, of a white man who had stolen a black woman. They come at the invitation of Dan Horton, the elderly owner of the farm on which the massacres unfolded. He hopes that by hosting the group he will satisfy his wife's dying wishes and cleanse some moral stain from the ground on which he and his family have lived for generations.

But the sins of the past will not be so easily expunged.

We walk with the ragtag group through this taboo country and note in them glimmers of re-connection with language, lore, country. We learn alongside them how countless generations of Noongar may have lived in ideal rapport with the land. Taboo won four literary awards, was longlisted for four and shortlisted for three more. It is a novel of survival and renewal, as much as destruction; and, ultimately, of hope as much as despair.