In this novel drawn from historical accounts, the governor of Van Diemen’s Land, or Tasmania, commissions the Roving Party to exterminate Aborigines in 1829. Leading the party is John Batman, a ruthless, though practical man whose motive isn’t genocide but, rather, land grants and money. The rest of the party consists of a sad but vicious stripling, Gould; two Aboriginal trackers; four convicts, in a land where everyone is a convict; and the extraordinary Black Bill, an Aborigine raised as a European and the smartest, and most formidable, of the lot. The party wreaks havoc consistently in harrowing scenes, but at times you can almost sympathize with them, or at least with their desperation. And the novel has a white whale at its core in the form of the fierce, near-mystical warrior Manalargena. Australian first-novelist Wilson writes beautifully, equally expert in describing the magical land as he is with Aboriginal dialect, but his story, at least in the U.S., will inevitably be compared to Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian (1985). It comes up short of that but is certainly worthy of recommendation. --John Mort
Praise for The Roving Party
Winner of the Australian/Vogel Literary Award
Winner of the Tasmanian Literary Awards' Margaret Scott Prize
Winner of the UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing
Winner of the Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Australian Novelist Award
"One of the best first novels I've read all year . . . The urgency of the chase, carefully chiseled language, exotic characters and dangerous conflict with each other—it's all here."—Alan Cheuse, NPR's All Things Considered
"[An] exceedingly powerful debut. Wilson's compelling story carries us through forest and over plains, leaving a trail of dead men." —Chicago Tribune
"The grim implacability of nature and end-of-the-world remoteness that haunts Wilson’s novel and those of his countryman Richard Flanagan have inspired the label 'Tasmanian Gothic.'"—The Seattle Times
"Wilson presents an emotionally harrowing, sometimes brutally violent exploration of cruelty and compassion in a desolate land. Wilson’s psychological insights are electric; the chilling ways in which each member of the roving party must grapple with his sense of humanity makes for particularly fascinating reading. Wilson’s novel will appeal to readers who appreciate intricate plotting, rich character studies, and poetic depictions of nature."—Library Journal
“A grim and bloody tone poem . . . Difficult and intriguing.”—Kirkus Reviews
"Australian first-novelist Wilson writes beautifully, equally expert in describing the magical land as he is with Aboriginal dialect." —Booklist
"[A] grim and astonishing novel."
—Australian Book Review
"An extremely skilful book telling a horror story, and the young writer's maturity takes your breath away . . . not for the fainthearted . . . Wilson writes in spectacularly beautiful prose."
"The Roving Party
is distinguished by Wilson's tactful and restrained account of a brutal episode in the history of the conflict between European newcomers and the original inhabitants of Van Diemen's Land. His restraint renders the horrors he depicts far more vivid and their ethical implications much more telling than other melodramatic, at times tub-thumping, approaches . . . evocative and impressive."
—Sydney Morning Herald