Brutal and tragic.
Twelve-year-old William Toosey is left alone on the death of his mother in 1874 Hobart, Tasmania. He travels north to Launceston to look for his father Thomas, a Black War veteran, who has been living rough in Deloraine near Launceston. At the same time, Thomas is being pursued by Fitheal Flynn who wants repayment of a debt, and William also needs to stay clear of the bullying police constables who are chasing him for brewery theft. The chaos of Launceston during protest riots against a railway rates levy, is the background for the violent outcome.
“And the sound of love is to name those lost who lived for others.”
“Near the gates the mob surged and gave a roar that Flynn felt at the corners of his chest. He surveyed the crowd. Bonfires rose in the cutting wind and gave light that called men from the blackness and they were a mob of louts made up alike from respectability and the lower orders, revelling in the names and feats of rebellion.”
“… he was sent within a month to the arsehole end of the earth in the rat-swarmed hold of a British hulk beside a hundred just as young and that was so long ago that the green home of Ireland was fading in his mind like he’d left his thoughts exposed to the sun …”
“He descended down the rainforested slope where stringy barks grew tall and full of sun like gargantuan flowers, stopping to study the bush behind him, listening for voices.”~Quotes from “To Name Those Lost” by Rohan Wilson.
- Judges’ report, Victorian Premier’s Literary award 2015: “The writing is compelling and vivid, the use of language superb, and Wilson skillfully weaves the narrative through fiction and history to its awful conclusion.”
- Judge’s report, Prime Minister’s Literary Awards 2015: “Written in a bold and visceral language, Wilson’s book concerns itself with the twin themes of retribution and redemption. As Toosey and Flynn, the fathers, lose themselves to vengeance, it falls to the children to seek forgiveness and forge new beginnings.”
- Kirkus: “this is a fast-paced, hard-nosed fable about revenge, pursuit, and the search for a moral compass in a place where chaos and rage and injustice set every dial wildly aquiver.”
Awards: 2016 Winner Adelaide Festival Awards for Literature – Fiction; 2015 Short-listed Prime Minister’s Literary Awards – Fiction; 2015 Short-listed Voss Literary Prize; 2015 Short-listed Tasmanian Premier’s Literary Prize – Margaret Scott Prize; 2015 Winner Tasmanian Premier’s Literary Prize – Tasmania Book Prize – People’s Choice Award; 2015 Winner Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards, Fiction
Background notes: By 1874, Tasmania (previously Van Deimen’s Land) was developing independence after long being a penal colony. The Black War (1830s) had been fought between colonists and Aboriginal Australians, nearly annihilating the island’s indigenous population. The Launceston riots took place in 1874 as a protest against a Government levy on ratepayers to cover interest on a loan to build the railway in the north. Mobs of people took to the streets, businesses were vandalised, the Superintendent of Police was injured, and an effigy of Colonial Secretary Chapman was burned. For more information: Resisting the Law: Opposition to the Launceston and Western Railway Rate; and THE RAILWAY RATE. (1874, February 6). The Tasmanian Tribune (Hobart Town, Tas. : 1872 – 1876).