Shortlist year: 2009
Shortlist category: Fiction
Published by: Penguin Random House (Vintage)
From the winner of the Man Booker Prize comes the bestselling, universally lauded novel of desire and its denial from acclaimed writer Richard Flanagan.
It is 1839. A young Aboriginal girl, Mathinna, is running through the long wet grass of an island at the end of the world to get help for her dying father, an Aboriginal chieftain. Twenty years later, on an island at the centre of the world, the most famous novelist of the day, Charles Dickens, realises he is about to abandon his wife, risk his name and forever after be altered because of his inability any longer to control his intense passion.
Connecting the two events are the most celebrated explorer of the age, Sir John Franklin – then governor of Van Diemen's Land – and his wife, Lady Jane, who adopt Mathinna, seen as one of the last of a dying race, as an experiment. Lady Jane believes the distance between savagery and civilisation is the learned capacity to control wanting. The experiment fails, Sir John disappears into the blue ice of the Arctic seeking the Northwest Passage, and a decade later Lady Jane enlists Dickens's aid to put an end to the scandalous suggestions that Sir John's expedition ended in cannibalism.
Dickens becomes ever more entranced in the story of men entombed in ice, recognising in its terrible image his own frozen inner life. He produces and stars in a play inspired by Franklin's fate to give story to his central belief that discipline and will can conquer desire. And yet the play will bring him to the point where he is no longer able to control his own passion and the consequences it brings.
Inspired by historical events, Wanting is a novel about art, love, and the way in which life is finally determined never by reason, but only ever by wanting.
About the author
Richard Flanagan was born in Longford, Tasmania, in 1961. His six novels are published in forty-two countries and have received numerous honours, including the 2014 Man Booker Prize for The Narrow Road to the Deep North.