Australia, Author, Book review, food, nature, Non-fiction, Penguin, Publisher, Reading Projects, Richard Flanagan, Setting, TBR 21

‘Toxic: The Rotting Underbelly of the Tasmanian Salmon Industry’ by Richard Flanagan


Non-fiction – paperback; Penguin; 240 pages; 2021.

I have not eaten red meat for 30 years, but I consume a lot of fish. I love salmon, whether fresh, smoked or hot smoked.

I knew that when I picked up this non-fiction expose of the Tasmanian salmon industry I was toying with fire. “This is going to put me off eating salmon for life, isn’t it?” I declared when the bookseller I purchased it from told me this was the sixth copy he’d sold in a matter of hours. He just laughed and said, “Come back and let me know!”

Well, I haven’t been back yet, but the answer is exactly what I knew it would be. It’s doubtful I will eat Tasmanian farmed salmon ever again.

A thorough investigation

Written by Booker prize-winner Richard Flanagan, Toxic is a no holds barred investigation into the dubious practices of farming Atlantic salmon in Tasmania, specifically the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, a body of water that separates Bruny Island from the Tasmanian mainland and which acts as the mouth of the estuaries of the Derwent and Huon Rivers and empties into the Tasman Sea.

Flanagan explains how this channel, once a renowned beauty spot and sleepy backwater, has become environmentally degraded by an industry that puts profit before all else. He also shows how the product, which is marketed as clean and healthy, is anything but. It’s an eye-opening, stomach-churning and anger-inducing read.

I regard myself as an educated person, someone who is interested in the provenance of my food and who cares deeply about nature, but Toxic has exposed the glaring omissions in my knowledge and made me realise how naive I am when it comes to buying — and eating — farmed salmon.

Here’s just a handful of things I did not know — and which greatly alarmed me:

¶  The salmon is dyed so that it appears a healthy-looking pink and is more palatable to the consumer. This dye — synthetic astaxanthin — is made from petrochemicals.

Just as you use colour swatches to choose house paint, the salmon corporations use colour swatches to choose their salmon’s colour.

¶  Farmed salmon is not necessarily good for you. That’s because the fish’s fatty profile has changed as a consequence of the diet they are fed which is plant-based, rather than fish-based, so that the salmon now contain more omega-6 oils, the so-called “bad” fats, rather than omega-3 oils, which are better for you.

¶  Salmon farming is driving deforestation because the fish are fed a plant-based diet. Fishmeal, it turns out, is too expensive to feed, so farmers source protein from other food streams to cut costs. In Tasmania, the majority of this protein is chicken-based (a revolting mix of heads, feet, intestines and so on, mainly sourced from battery hens), but the fish are also fed soy, which comes from South America.

Illegal deforestation to create new soy farms in South America, particularly in the Amazon and Cerrado, is deeply embedded in the rise of the salmon industry globally and throws a long shadow over any attempt by the local industry to present salmon as a green product.

The fish live in horrendous conditions, crammed into “feedlots” where they barely have room to swim. These lots are often stacked one on top of another in towers of up to 20 metres in height, “down which faeces and urine rain”.

The image of thousands of cows slowly suffocating to death in a smog-polluted shed would be unacceptable. The reality of thousands of salmon slowly suffocating to death on a hot day as oxygen levels collapse is less questioned.

Fish farms are noisy. They work around the clock using heavy diesel compressors to oxygenate the water. To avoid salmon stock being killed by amoebic gill disease, the fish also need to be “bathed” in giant freshwater bladders on a monthly, sometimes fortnightly, rotation. They are mechanically vacuumed out of their feedlots into the bladders, then sucked out again. And then there are all the attendant boats and the industrial lighting required to enable workers to see what they are doing, so that residents living onshore are plagued by light and noise pollution 24/7.

I could go on, but it’d be easier for me to tell you to read the book. You might end up underlining the entire thing, which is what I was tempted to do when I wasn’t feeling nauseous by the horrendous facts that pile up on top of one another like bodies in a mass grave (I make no apology for that simile).

An industry mired in secrecy

Knowing all this, the first question you might well ask is how is this legal?

Flanagan painstakingly documents the corruption at the heart of the industry, which claims to be regulated but is really mired in secrecy and cover-ups. He talks to leading scientists and activists and a host of brave people who have spoken out against the industry’s practices. It doesn’t make for pleasant or comfortable reading.

It’s thoroughly researched and completely up-to-date (there are references to things that happened as recently as March 2021), but unfortunately, Toxic doesn’t possess an index, which is infuriating if you wish to look something up afterwards. There is, however, an extensive list of references and sources.

I can’t say I am glad I read this book, because it means I can no longer in all good conscience continue to eat one of my favourite sources of protein, but it’s one of the best, and most chilling, non-fiction reads I’ve consumed in a long while.

Please note, Toxic: The Rotting Underbelly of the Tasmanian Salmon Industry doesn’t appear to be published outside of Australia, but you can order it from readings.com.au or try bookfinder.com to source a used copy.

This is my 19h book for #TBR21 in which I’m planning to read 21 books from my TBR between 1 January and 31 May 2021. I purchased it from my local independent book store last month.

Australia, Author, Book review, Fiction, Knopf, literary fiction, Publisher, Richard Flanagan, Setting

‘The Living Sea of Waking Dreams’ by Richard Flanagan

Fiction – hardcover;  Knopf Australia; 302 pages; 2020.

Richard Flanagan’s latest novel, The Living Sea of Waking Dreams, is an exquisitely written tale about preserving human life at any cost at a time when everything in the natural world is being killed off by human activity. It’s a book brimming with irony, ideas and issues but is not without humour — or hope.

Holding on to a mother’s love

The book’s central focus is on three adult siblings who do everything in their power to ensure their aged mother, 87-year-old Francie, is kept alive in a Hobart hospital after she experiences a bleed on the brain.

But there are divisions between Francie’s three children — Anna and Terzo, who want to keep Francie alive, and Tommy, who would prefer she slip away naturally — and it is these different viewpoints which provide the necessary tension to make this deeply thoughtful novel a proper page-turner.

The story is largely told from Anna’s point of view. A successful architect who left Tasmania to pursue her career, she has a complicated relationship with her son, Gus, who steals from her. But this is the least of her concerns because early on in the novel Anna notices that her finger has disappeared; it is simply no longer there. Later, she “loses” a knee.

This becomes a metaphor for emotional loss, but it also seems that the more determined Anna becomes to keep her mother alive, the more of Anna herself disappears. (Admittedly, when I first heard that there was an aspect of “magic realism” to Flanagan’s novel I wasn’t sure it would work for me, but rest assured, as crazy as it sounds, it feels entirely realistic; I never once suspended belief.)

Anna’s brother Terzo, a venture capitalist who also moved to the mainland decades ago to make something of himself, acts as her enabler. The pair work together, using their power and influence and money and sheer inability to believe that death could come knocking at their mother’s door, to keep Francie alive.

The naysayer in the corner is younger brother Tommy, a sensitive artistic type, who is viewed by his siblings as a failure because he’s never gone out and explored the world. He’s the devoted son who has stayed behind; the one who sees that it would be kinder to let his mother — unhappy and miserable and no longer able to enjoy life — pass away.

Loss of the natural world

Intertwined with this largely domestic drama is the larger issue of mass extinction in our natural world. This is reflected in a storyline about efforts to save the rare orange-bellied parrot — “We do everything we can to keep them alive, and yet they keep dying” — a conservation project that Anna becomes involved with.

Sometimes she thought the birds did it out of spite, that they willed themselves to death because of their weariness with the world, with the failing efforts of their human saviours. Because the world is so against them.

And against this backdrop of a chaotic world where Nature is under threat and so many species are vanishing because of habitat loss and climate change, the only thing that makes Anna numb to the realities is to lose herself in her phone. And every time something terrible happens or Anna knows that she is going to hear bad news about her mother, she picks up her phone and scrolls and swipes and likes and clicks.

Perhaps the more the essential world vanished, the more people needed to fixate on the inessential world.

UK edition

Major issues of our time

The power of The Living Sea of Waking Dreams lies in the way it gently teases out major issues of our times in a multi-layered narrative that riffs on so many recurring themes — love, death, beauty, power, motherhood, feminism, family bonds, siblings, vanishings and distraction. It brings to mind Anne Tyler and Charlotte Wood, two writers who focus on the domestic and the minutiae of people’s lives, but Flanagan takes it a step further by writing in such a perceptive way that it shines a light on bigger societal issues.

There’s so much more I could say about this wonderful novel. I read it back in September and took copious notes, but couldn’t bring myself to review it at the time, not quite knowing where to start. Penning this now, I’m acutely aware I am struggling to articulate the book’s strengths or even the way it made me see the world anew.

I always greet a new Richard Flanagan novel with much fanfare, and this one was no exception. I even signed up to an online book launch, hosted by the Wheeler Centre, and watched an interview with him on the 7.30 Report (a current affairs news programme on ABC TV here in Australia).

I read it back to back with Sigrid Nunez’s What Are You Going Through, in which a terminally ill cancer patient decides to take her own life, and couldn’t help but compare how the characters in Flanagan’s novel have an entirely different take on death. This might sound like bleak subject matter, and sometimes it feels unbelievably cruel, but this isn’t a book without hope; I came away from it feeling that it’s important for us all to reconnect with nature and with each other and to care for the world in whatever small ways we can.

Lisa at ANZLitlovers loved this one too.

Atlantic Books, Australia, Author, Book review, Fiction, literary fiction, Publisher, Richard Flanagan, Setting

‘Death of a River Guide’ by Richard Flanagan

Death-of-a-river-guide

Fiction – paperback; Atlantic Books; 326 pages; 2004.

Richard Flanagan is one of my favourite authors. I’ve read and enjoyed all his novels — The Sound of One Hand Clapping (1997), Gould’s Book of Fish: A Novel in Twelve Fish (2001), The Unknown Terrorist (2006) and Wanting (2008) — but had kept his first novel for a special occasion. And what better occasion to read Death of a River Guide (1994) than Australian Literature Month?

A brave and audacious debut

As a debut novel, Death of a River Guide is a brave and audacious one.

It is told from the perspective of Aljaz Cosini — half Tasmanian, half Slovenian — who is drowning in Tasmania’s Franklin River during a rather adventurous, dangerous and ultimately tragic river expedition that he is leading. As Aljaz tries to wriggle free from the rock which has ensnared him under the white water, scenes from his life — good, bad and ugly — come rushing back to him like fragments of a dream.

In an unusual twist (I hate to use the term “magic realism” but I guess that’s what it is), Aljaz also gets to experience scenes from the lives of his parents, lovers and forebears, helping him to understand his place in the world.

Bite-sized flashbacks

Interspersed with this narrative thread, which is composed largely of bite-sized flashbacks, is a second storyline that follows the white-water rafting expedition that Aljaz is leading. The expedition is a commercial tour for stressed-out executives, nurses and other full-time workers, and Aljaz, who is accompanied by a younger, more enthusiastic river guide, is a bit cynical about it all.

The job doesn’t pay particularly well, but he’s a drifter and will take anything that is going to keep his head above water — pun not intended. He has been a river guide before, but is a bit out of practice, for reasons that are explained during one of his many flashbacks.

The novel is heavy on detail — the descriptions of the river and the rainforests of Tasmania are particularly vivid and beautiful — and peopled with a seemingly endless cast of wonderful characters, including Aljaz’s convict ancestors and the tiresome people he leads on the trip.

Fast-paced narrative

But this is not at expense of narrative tension which becomes heightened the further you get into the book. That’s because you know from the outset that Aljaz is drowning, but you don’t know how this tragic predicament came about — and you have to propel yourself through more than 250 pages before you find out what happens on that fateful fourth day of the trip.

Death of a River Guide is a lovely rich and engrossing novel, brimming with multiple storylines about history, fate, identity and nature. It’s also a wonderful tale that contrasts Tasmania’s dark past as a penal colony with its new role as a wilderness destination. It’s a captivating read — and one I won’t forget in a hurry.

Australia, Author, Book review, England, Fiction, historical fiction, Publisher, Random House Australia, Richard Flanagan, Setting

‘Wanting’ by Richard Flanagan

Wanting

Fiction – hardcover; Random House Australia; 252 pages; 2008. Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

There’s something quite ironic about wanting a book called Wanting so much that when you finally get your grubby little mitts on it you find you’re not really in the right frame of mood to read it — and perhaps you didn’t want it that much after all. But having cajoled the Australian publisher into sending me a review copy on the basis that I’m an expat Australian I couldn’t exactly leave this one on the pile indefinitely, and so I recently unearthed it and began to read…

In this novel Richard Flanagan returns to his state of birth, Tasmania, and sets his story in the 1830s. We’ve been here before, of course, in Flanagan’s third novel, Gould’s Book of Fish, but this one has a dual narrative set in England in 1851, which adds an extra level of complexity.

There are famous people in this book, too, real characters from history that many readers will be familiar with: Sir John Franklin, who was governor of Tasmania between 1836 and 1843, but is better known for his exploration of North America and the Arctic, including his ill-fated expedition to chart and navigate the Northwest Passage; and Charles Dickens, the English novelist, who was briefly obsessed with Arctic exploration and staged a play, The Frozen Deep, in Manchester in collaboration with Wilkie Collins, and cast himself in the star role.

A third historical figure, much less known, is the young aboriginal girl, Mathinna, who was “adopted” by the Franklins in Tasmania as a kind of experiment to prove that the “savage” could be “tamed” and “civilised”. It’s an experiment which fails dismally, not because of any wrong doing by Mathinna, but because the social constructs and beliefs of the time were stacked against her.

These twin narratives, 12 years apart, are told in alternating chapters and are linked by Franklin’s wife, Lady Jane. She knew the novelist Dickens and enlisted him to defend her missing husband’s reputation when he was accused, in the press, of having resorted to cannibalism during his Northwest Passage expedition from whence he’d never returned.

But despite a book peopled by historical figures, Flanagan points out in his Author’s Note that “this novel is not a history, nor should it be read as one”. He adds:

The stories of Mathinna and Dickens, with their odd but undeniable connection, suggested to me a meditation on desire — the cost of its denial, the centrality and force of its power in human affairs. That, and not history, is the true subject of Wanting.

Taking this into account, the book is a superb exploration of this theme. The Dickens portrayed here is slightly crazed and very lonely, caught in a loveless marriage which mirrors “the cold whiteness of the Northwest Passage”.

He continued with his marriage. He continued to believe that, like everything else in his life, it would be righted by the sheer force of his will. He had trouble staying in the same room as his wife, but he stayed nevertheless. He continued to argue in his writing for domesticity, and tried not to think that perhaps this was the very thing in his life that had escaped him, that perhaps it did not really exist, or, if it did, it was just one more prison bar.

And Mathinna, whom captures the attentions of Lady Jane Franklin upon her arrival in Wybalenna, Tasmania — “Why, look, you could almost wish to hold the little wild beast and pet her” — spends the rest of her life caught between cultures and wants nothing more than to fit in. When she eventually returns to her own people, the juxtaposition is evident.

[…] she spoke in a manner that was neither white nor black, but in a strange way with strange words that made no sense to anyone. Who was this girl? Why did she talk this way, why this strange wavering voice?

At times this is a heart-breaking read, but there was something about Wanting that didn’t really gel with me — and I’m at odds to put my finger on exactly what this was.

Having read three of Flanagan’s previous novels, I consider him one of the finest writers in Australia, which is why I was eager to read this latest offering. There’s no doubt that the scene setting is vivid, that the characterisation is strong, that the writing is typically beautiful (although he seems to have lost his penchant for overly long sentences in this one), and yet it didn’t particularly “grab” me in the same way as The Sound of One Hand Clapping or the The Unknown Terrorist did.

And maybe it’s the dual narrative that lost me, because while both strands are excellent stories in their own right, putting them together in the one book doesn’t allow enough room for either to properly breathe. No sooner would I get to grips with one story, than I’d have to flip a switch in my brain and start reading about the next, and then do it all over again when I got to the end of the chapter. This makes for a slightly bumpy read rather than a streamlined one.

All the same, if you are intrigued by either Franklin or Dickens, or maybe even both, you will probably very much enjoy this book — although you may not necessarily like what you find out about either character.

Australia, Author, Book review, crime/thriller, Fiction, Grove Press, literary fiction, Publisher, Richard Flanagan, Setting

‘The Unknown Terrorist’ by Richard Flanagan

UnkownTerrorist

Fiction – hardcover; Grove Press; 336 pages; 2007.

Australian author Richard Flanagan‘s latest novel, The Unknown Terrorist, is dedicated to David Hicks, the Australian-born Taleban fighter captured by US forces in Afghanistan in November 2001. Hicks was detained by the US Government in the Guantanamo Bay detention camp for more than five years, before he was tried and convicted of supporting terrorism in 2007. His ongoing detention without trial made him a cause célèbre in Australia.

If nothing else, this particular case highlights that those accused of terrorism are not subject to the normal “rules” under the justice system as it operates in most democratic countries: if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time you could be locked away without trial and, what’s more, you could be mistreated and tortured on the simple basis that you are presumed guilty with no legal right to defend yourself.

Since the advent of 9/11 and the subsequent War on Terror, we live in dangerous times, but who is in danger? Innocent civilians who may be blown up at any moment? Or innocent people accused of plotting to blow things up on the flimsiest of “evidence”? It’s a blurry line and it is exactly this line that Flanagan exploits for the purposes of this thrilling, thoroughly modern novel.

Set in Sydney across five hot, summer days, the story follows Gina Davies, a lap dancer known as the Doll, on the run from the law having been accused of helping to plot a terrorist attack. But Gina is entirely innocent. Her “crime” has been no more than having a one-night stand with an attractive stranger, Tariq, who is blamed for three unexploded bombs found at Homebush Olympic Stadium the previous day.

Broadcast journalist come television celebrity Richard Cody — whom I suspect is a thinly veiled version of Ray Martin — is onto the story straight away for a prime time current affairs program called Undercurrent.

Cody has had a secret “encounter” with the Doll at the club and thinks there’s something mysterious about her. What ensues is a media beat-up about the “unknown terrorist” that becomes increasingly fantastic as time goes on, with little grounding in reality. But despite Cody’s occasional twinges of guilt — he realises the Doll has no motive for the crime — he justifies his decision to “move the story on” because ASIO spook Siv Harmsen tells him that “we need stories that remind people of what horrifying things might happen”.

And so standing together they watched the same footage run again — the same bomb in the same kid’s backpack; the same bad photograph of the same bearded man in Arabic-looking dress; the same slow-motion grainy images of Tariq and the Doll hugging each other. The repetitive images clicking over filled the TV like loose change filling an empty poke. The Twin Towers fell again; the same children’s bodies were laid out once more in Beslan; the same man or woman dressed in black brandished the same machine gun; the Doll continued dancing naked. And there were new scenes — a murky London tube train moments after it had been bombed; the Sari nightclub burning after the Bali bombing; wounded being taken away from the Madrid train bombing, the montage culminating in a shot that zoomed in on the Sydney Opera House before being blowing out to white, a cheap effect accompanied by an ominous rumble.

The Doll closed her eyes.

When she opened them she saw Osama bin Laden. George W. Bush. Missiles being launched. Men in robes firing grenade launchers. Great buildings exploding into balloons of fire. Women covered in blood. Hostages about to be beheaded. New York! Bali! Madrid! London! Baghdad! The Doll disintigrating into dancing squares of colour, herself pixellated, smiling a smile that was never hers.

Without wishing to spoil the plot, Gina’s life — and that of her best friend, Wilder — is put in increasing danger until the dramatic, heart-thumping climax. This is a genuinely intelligent thriller, quite unlike anything Flanagan has written before but with the same beautifully written prose for which he is renowned. I love the ways in which he uses analogies and similes to bring his writing to life. The book is littered with hundreds of examples, but this one, in which he compares a policeman’s dying marriage to that of a dying tree, demonstrates his particular brand of originality.

They stayed together and watched each other slowly become strangers, watched their love die as you watch a great old gum tree succumb to dieback. The affair was over for him, but it was just beginning for her. She never found out then, but it was as if each day now she lived another day of those years of lies and deceit; and his punishment was to witness her suffering. First just the leaf tips in the distant crown brown a little at the edges, then whole leaves, then a branch here and there. Still the tree lives, and everyone says it will be fine, that it is the weather, or one of those things, or anything but the death of something as natural and as seemingly permanent as a tree. But when his marriage began dying back, Nick Loukakis discovered nothing is fine. Each day some small thing — a joke, a shared intimacy, a sweet memory — he found to have withered and died. Caresses fell like dead leaves. Conversations cracked and then broke. And in the end there was nothing to quicken the trunk with the rising sap that fed and was fed in return by the branches, by the twigs, by the leaves. And in the end what remained, Nick Loukakis discovered, was nothing; nothing to keep it going, just a large thing still standing erect and proud, only everything about it had withered and died.

This is a very knowing novel, carefully constructed to expose the kinds of puppetry that goes on behind the scary headlines and news bulletins that bombard us on a daily basis. As well as dropping cynical observations about media manipulation, The Unknown Terrorist also takes a pop at the politics of fear mongering.

It’s by no means a perfect novel — there are far too many coincidences throughout, and the entire plot is far too contrived — but it’s a genuinely exciting and thought-provoking read about the shallow yet dark times in which we live.

Australia, Author, Book review, Fiction, Grove Press, literary fiction, Publisher, Richard Flanagan, Setting

‘The Sound of One Hand Clapping’ by Richard Flanagan

Soundof

Fiction – paperback; Grove Press; 425 pages; 1997.

I seem to be on a roll with Australian books. This one, my third in a matter of weeks, is by Richard Flanagan, who first came to international prominence with Gould’s Book of Fish, which I read several years ago and loved very much. The book went on to win the Commonwealth Writers Prize in 2002.

Prior to this Flanagan had written two other novels: Death of a River Guide, in 1994, and The Sound of One Hand Clapping, in 1997. Like Gould’s Book of Fish, both are set in Tasmania, an island state of Australia, where the author resides.

At its most basic level The Sound of One Hand Clapping is about the strained relationship between a father and daughter, but it is far more complicated than that, touching on a wide range of issues including poverty, alcoholism, domestic violence and wartime atrocities, all set within the social and historical context of Australia’s immigrant past.

This is a book that possesses a strangely heady mix of bleakness and despair, tempered by moments of clarity and joy. Initially I wrestled with the writing style, because Flanagan is prone to overly-long sentences that sometimes so twist and bend out of shape you feel like you’re riding a rollercoaster:

In that long Autumn of 1959, when elsewhere the world was sensing change so big and hard in its coming that it was like the trembling of the earth announcing the arrival of a yet to be seen locomotive, in that month of April in the city of Hobart, nothing much looked like it could ever change around a town that had grown used to never being anything but the arse end of everything: mean, hard and dirty, where civic ambition meant buying up old colonial buildings and bulldozing them quick and covering the dust promptly with asphalt for cars most people were yet to own, where town pride meant tossing any unlucky ferro found lying in the park into the can, and where a sense of community equated with calling anybody with skin darker than fair a boong bastard unless he worse snappy clothes in which case he was a filthy wog bastard — in that month of April when the cold slowly began its winter’s journey, spreading its way down over weeks from the mountain’s steel-blue flanks, on an early Saturday morning, an FJ was wending its way through the scummy back streets of north Hobart to the home of Umberto Picotti.

And it can be hard to get a foothold on the essence of the story when the narrative is non-linear, shunting backwards and forwards in time, and told from two different perspectives.

But in many ways this is what makes The Sound of One Hand Clapping such a wonderfully rich and beguiling read. Hypnotic and unbearably sad in places, it’s a very human tale about two people locked together by a shared past who struggle to rise above the pain of their circumstances.

The story begins in 1954 when Slovenian couple Bojan and Maria Buloh, both scarred by the horrors of the Second World War, immigrate to Australia. Bojan, along with hundreds of other European immigrants, finds work as a labourer on a construction project to build a massive hydroelectric dam in the rugged Tasmanian highlands. Here the weather is harsh and living conditions primitive. One stormy evening Maria packs her bags and leaves her husband and three-year-old daughter Sonja behind. She is never seen alive again.

What enfolds over the next 35 years is essentially the nub of this compelling novel. Bojan drowns his grief in drink and struggles to make a decent life for his daughter. Sonja, unbearably miserable, eventually flees to the mainland. It is only when she is about to become a mother herself that she decides to re-establish contact, returning to Tasmania to make amends with her now elderly father. Her life’s story is then told in a series of flashbacks intercut with chapters from Bojan’s point of view.

The Sound of One Hand Clapping is a book about new beginnings that shatters the myth of Australia as the “lucky country”. It does not shy away from presenting white Australians as uncouth, uncultured and racist at a period in the country’s history at which immigration was running at an all-time high. For that reason alone, it is a refreshing — and challenging — read.

This critically acclaimed novel won the 1998 Victorian Premier’s Prize for Best Novel, the 1999 ABA Australian Book of the Year Prize and was shortlisted for the 1998 Miles Franklin Award. It was made into a film directed by Richard Flanagan in 1998.