WHAT WAS LOST WILL BE FOUND…Washington DC: Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned at the lRead Review
The Tall Man: Death and Life on Palm Island
The Tall Man is the story of Palm Island, the tropical paradise where one morning Cameron Doomadgee swore at a policeman and forty minutes later lay dead in a watch-house cell. It is the story of that policeman, the tall, enigmatic Christopher Hurley who chose to work in some of the toughest and wildest places in Australia, and of the struggle to bring him to trial. Above all, it is a story in luminous detail of two worlds clashing - and a haunting moral puzzle that no reader will forget.
THE TALL MAN
By Chloe Hooper
The Tall Man is a highly detailed novel which investigates the death of Cameron Doomadgee on 19th November 2004. Written by Chloe Hooper, it reincarnates the surrealism which surrounded the Aboriginal man's death.
The novel is divided into four sections and is structured in such a way that it meticulously accounts for every detail. Every character is explored for their contradictions and every situation is observed for its nuances. This perception can only come with two and a half years of painstaking research that Hooper dedicated herself to.
Characterisation is also highly effective Each character is investigated for their history, their flaws and their successes. Both parties in the legal battle are not simply illustrated to be entities, but rather individual humans whose personal lives are portrayed to be heavily impacted by Cameron Doomadgee's death. Legal groups, such as the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Queensland Police Force, which also feel the repercussions of the case are empathised with as well.
All information in the novel is highly accurate and is backed up by extensive research through interviews and legal documents. Hooper has a narrative voice of an objective reporter, who observes details down to the sweat on the lawyer's back. Shadowing Boe, a lawyer defending Cameron Doomadgee's family, Hooper gains an insight into otherwise inaccessible information. Court documents and surveillance footage are all described, with newspaper articles and primary sources being interspersed throughout the text.
I would recommend this text to high school students. This novel encompasses many themes which could frighten young children, such as the gory details of Cameron's injuries. An extent of maturity is also required to understand the different shades of legal proceedings and the visible inequality, even today, when Indigenous standards of living are compared with that of the rest of the Australian population. Some language, especially quotes from arguments between Cameron and the policemen, are also quite explicit.
Readers who enjoy legal thrillers will like this novel. The speed at which events occur is slightly slow, which requires some patience. However, this complemented for by the detail.
The Tall Man is a poignant story of a death, interwoven with the haunting history of Palm Island and embellished with a touch of Aboriginal dreamtime.
The Tall Man by Chloe Hooper is the stunning account of a true story, based on the events of November 2004 and the following years. It is an accessible but insightful, accurate but captivating novel about not just the story of Cameron Doomadgee, but a side of Australia that many never see, but all should know.
The Tall Man follows the story of the Aboriginal community on Palm Island, focusing on the death of Cameron in police custody and the ensuing coronial inquest and court appeals as Cameron’s family and friends fight for justice and recognition. Although it could be classified as a crime or mystery novel, Hooper digs much deeper than just the mere question of whether Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley is guilty. Instead, she delves underneath the surface of the community, learning the secrets and feelings of its members, the beauty of its culture and their struggles to stay afloat in the face of painful histories and fractured lives.
One of the things that make this novel so special is its ability to take the reader on a journey to a place that is so far removed from their own experiences and yet still be able to make it easily comprehendible to the average Australian reader. Hooper herself admitted in the opening chapters that, “Like most middle-class suburbanites, I grew up without ever seeing a black person, except on the news”, immediately establishing solidarity with the reader and allowing them to feel more comfortable with a book about issues that many prefer to ignore.
It is namely Hooper’s profound storytelling abilities that make The Tall Man a relatively easy read, even with its dark themes. For although Hooper tells the story in the first person, retelling it as she arrives in Palm Island and despite it being principally a story based on factual evidence, The Tall Man still reads like a novel, taking the reader along a ride full of intense ups and downs along with the residents of Palm Island. The reader is caught up in the terror of the riots at the police station, the sadness of Cameron’s family and their determination for justice. Her detailed descriptions paint a vivid image in the reader’s head, making them feel as if they are at Palm Island, such when Hooper described how the “heat attacks like a swarm of insects’ or how “In the tropics, buildings seem to ripen – then sag and wilt and rot”; her captivating similes and metaphors such as these effectively capturing the atmosphere of the community.
Throughout the novel, Hooper introduces the reader to the complex mix of modern society and ancient culture that is the Aboriginal community. She frequently includes tales of the Dreaming, or other aspects of Aboriginal culture, such as when Hooper describes, while fishing at a river, how “It was totally, incredibly vital. Here all nature is believed to be sentient – every rock, every leaf, every bird, every fish has some sprit...Plants and animals are you kin. And Blue Water seemed somehow more alive, alive with an extra dimension”. Amongst Hooper’s beautiful retelling of Aboriginal culture, the reader is allowed a glimpse of this amazing society.
Hooper provides an unbiased and impartial view of the trial, despite her connection to the Aboriginal residents of Palm Island. Her dedication to research and details is undeniable, with her going as far as to travel around to various towns in Queensland and the Northern Territory in order to learn more about Hurley. The novel even contains a side of anthropological contemplation as Hooper raises questions about certain aspects of human nature, having been faced with such raw and confronting emotions and circumstances. Her observations and comments are astute and discerning, such as when she asks “If, fighting a war against savagery...you became savage yourself?” The points she raises are relevant to all readers and force them to become involved with the book, questioning their own morals and beliefs.
In its entirety, the novel is not so much a story of just racial discrimination or prejudice, but the greater picture of a clash of cultures and the seemingly insurmountable divide that exists between native and white Australia. One of the times in which this divide is particularly evident is in the alarming contrasting descriptions of Hurley and an Aboriginal witness at the trial. In contrast to “smooth and upstanding” Hurley, the Aboriginal woman “stood for everything white Australia doesn’t want to know about black Australia. Hunched slightly in her faded clothes, rolls of fat on her back, she was alcoholic, diabetic, and she had heart trouble.” The extreme juxtapositions of these two people is a microcosm of the larger situation that is evident across Australia, not just in this court room.
Overall, this novel is a stunning and captivating read that leave the reader reeling. It details the breathtaking poignancy the world of Aboriginal Australia and the world of white Australia, and the disadvantage and devastation that occurs when they collide. In merely 269 pages, Hooper makes the broken but beautiful world that is Palm Island come alive, combining heart-breaking storytelling with meticulous research to culminate in a must-read for any Australian.