A hypnotic and “astonishingly inventive” (O, The Oprah Magazine) novel about an Aboriginal girl living in a future world turned upside down—where ancient myths exist side-by-side with present-day realities.
Oblivia Ethelyne was given her name by an old woman who found her deep in the bowels of a gum tree, tattered and fragile, the victim of a brutal assault by wayward local youths. These are the years leading up to Australia’s third centenary, and the woman who finds her, Bella Donna of the Champions, is a refugee from climate change wars that devastated her country in the northern hemisphere.
Bella Donna takes Oblivia to live with her on an old warship in a polluted dry swamp and there she fills Oblivia’s head with story upon story of swans. Fenced off from the rest of Australia by the Army, its traditional custodians left destitute, the swamp has become “the world’s most unknown detention camp” for Indigenous Australians. When Warren Finch, the first Aboriginal president of Australia invades the swamp with his charismatic persona and the promise of salvation, Oblivia agrees to marry him, becoming First Lady, a role that has her confined to a tower in a flooded and lawless southern city.
In this multilayered novel, winner of the Australian Literature Society's Gold Medal, Wright toys with the edges of the world we live in and “deftly highlights the racial and cultural politics facing Australia's indigenous people in a story that defies genre. It is a challenging and heartbreaking story that illuminates the culture and struggles of an often overlooked people” (Publishers Weekly).
About the Author
Alexis Wright, a member of the Waanyi nation of the southern highlands of the Gulf of Carpentaria, is one of Australia’s most acclaimed and fearless writers. Her previous novel, Carpentaria, won the Miles Franklin Award, Australia's most prestigious literary prize.
“Told in dense prose full of evocative imagery, Wright's book deftly highlights the racial and cultural politics facing Australia's indigenous people in a story that defies genre. It is a challenging and heartbreaking story that illuminates the culture and struggles of an often overlooked people.”
— Publishers Weekly
— O, The Oprah Magazine
“Rich with allegory and symbolism, this wild, explosive story blends the myths and legends of numerous cultures in a dystopian near future…significant and contemporary, in the style of Gloria Naylor’s Mama Day (1988).”
— Booklist (starred review)
“Alexis Wright’s The Swan Book is hypnotic and disturbing…a very unusual book…This is definitely one of the books Sir Francis Bacon would recommend that we chew and digest.”
— A Bookish Type
International Praise for The Swan Book:
"It is a bitter, lovely, and tragic book; and not only the author but also the publisher should be commended."
— Australian Book Review
"The Swan Book might be one of the most important Australian novels yet."
— Sydney Morning Herald
"Bears all the hallmarks of Wright’s astonishing narrative powers: her linguistic dexterity, mashing words and phrases from high and low culture, from English, Aboriginal languages, French and Latin; her humour and scathing satire; her fierce political purpose; her genre bending; her virtuosic gift for interweaving stories on multiple levels, from the literal to the metaphoric, the folkloric and the mythic. But The Swan Book takes all these – especially the last – to new levels."
— Sydney Review of Books