Rating: 3.5 Stars
Genre: Fiction (Historical)
Expected publication: February 28th 2012
Source: NetGalley eARC
Synopsis (Barnes and Noble):
Set in Western Australia in the first decades of the nineteenth century, That Deadman Dance is a vast, gorgeous novel about the first contact between the Aboriginal Noongar people and the new European settlers.
Bobby Wabalanginy is a young Noongar man, smart, resourceful, and eager to please. He befriends the European arrivals, joining them as they hunt whales, till the land, and establish their new colony. He is welcomed into a prosperous white family, and eventually finds himself falling in love with the daughter, Christine. But slowly-by design and by hazard-things begin to change. Not everyone is happy with how the colony is progressing. Livestock mysteriously start to disappear, crops are destroyed, there are "accidents" and injuries on both sides. As the Europeans impose ever-stricter rules and regulations in order to keep the peace, Bobby's Elders decide they must respond in kind, and Bobby is forced to take sides, inexorably drawn into a series of events that will forever change the future of his country.
That Deadman Dance is inevitably tragic, as most stories of European and native contact are. But through Bobby's life, Kim Scott exuberantly explores a moment in time when things could have been different, when black and white lived together in amazement rather than fear of the other, and when the world seemed suddenly twice as large and twice as promising. At once celebratory and heartbreaking, this novel is a unique and important contribution to the literature of native experience.
Very hard review for me to do.
I received That Deadman Dance by Kim Scott as an ARC copy from NetGalley. The first thing that attracted me was the cover. I love the cover. Then the synopsis. I like history fiction and I can honestly say that I don't ever remember reading a book about early Australia and colonization. I was instantly hooked and curious.
The plot of That Deadman Dance is about the encounters between early colonizers and the Noongar people. I don't think it is necessary to really go into the details. Most people know the story of what happened when Europeans started colonizing other nations and the effect it had on the indigenous population. This is a very similar story.
While Scott is a gifted storyteller, I wasn't able to connect with his characters. The characters all felt sort of superfical to me, like they had no depth. This was mainly because there are so many characters and Scott spends a little time telling the background of each one of them. They all had unique and interesting stories but I just didn't feel any connection with any of them. And I love a good character based story.
The main character in the story is Bobby, a Noongar boy, whom the story follows through old age. I was hoping that Scott would give more substance to Bobby, but I found that he was more of the archetype for The Fool character (his was a gifted performer in the story). There were times when I felt that Bobby character was starting to grow and deviate from The Fool character, only to fail. Even to the end, Bobby never really seemed to grasp the reality that increase number of European settlers and the rules they were imposing would mean to him and his people.
Now, the writing in That Deadman Dance is beautiful. Scott is a very gifted writer. In fact, the writing is what saved this story for me. But I will caution that it is not an easy read. This is literary fiction at its finest. I had to read this in bits and pieces and really take my time. While I did not like Scott's characters I did like his descriptions of the scenery. Even though he did not go into great details, he did give me enough information to envision the scenery in my mind. The whale hunting scenes were awesome.
Pros: Plot, Writing
I would recommend this with caution. That Deadman Dance is an interesting novel, but I don't think it's for people that aren't really literary fiction fans. If you like literary fiction I would recommend giving it a try.