Van Diemen's Land, 1841. Mathinna, the adopted Aboriginal daughter of the island's governor, Sir John Franklin, and his wife, Lady Jane, sits for her portrait. She is the subject of a grand experiment in civilisation - one that will determine whether science and reason can be imposed in place of savagery and desire.
Years pass. Sir John Franklin disappears on an Arctic expedition to find the fabled Northwest Passage. England is horrified as reports of cannibalism filter back from search parties, no one more so than the most celebrated novelist of the day, Charles Dickens, for whom Franklin's story becomes a means to plumb the frozen depths of his own soul.
As several lives become entwined, Wanting transforms the classical myth of Leda and the swan into a novel about the ways in which desire - and its denial - shape us all.
By Richard Flanagan, 2008
Richard Flanagan was born in Tasmania, spending some time in his childhood living on the West Coast. He won the Man Booker Prize for The Narrow Road to the Deep North in 2014.