I realised that I haven’t read nearly enough fiction about Indigenous Australians. A few of my earlier reads this year, Where The Trees Were and Storyland, have touched on the theme but I certainly need to read more. Enter the mysterious sounding Taboo. Taboo tells the story of the unspeakable past and of the present returning to the taboo. Of mending old bridges and culture and family. Of resilience and addiction and abuse. The story of the Noongar people living in the present day with ever present spiritual connections that cannot be broken.
Taboo is built on a great concept straddling several genres. We see shades of drama, historical fiction and fable just to name a few. The story starts with the all too familiar concept of several wrongs do not make a right: white man does something insensitive, indigenous men retaliate with a crime, white mob massacre any indigenous person they can get their hands on. An all too common and tragic story from Australian history.
This is a strong novel dealing with intense themes. It gives an honest depiction of drug and alcohol addiction in our indigenous community, manipulative and charismatic men in power, the importance of family and community and culture. I love that this novel crosses into, not magical realism, but spiritual realism. A window into our indigenous culture that I’m ashamed to say I don’t know enough about. An understanding of the culture and connections to the land. This aspect is not at all overwritten, almost blink and you will miss it.
This novel left me wanting more. More knowledge about indigenous Australian culture (recommendations, please). More from Kim Scott, who himself comes from an indigenous heritage and is a two time winner of the Miles Franklin award. A unique and haunting novel and one I would highly recommend, particularly to Australian readers. I give Taboo four skulls, a reminder of the Taboo.