Manage episode 363429813 series 2381791
Nardi Simpson is a Yuwaalaraay writer and Song of the Crocodile is her debut novel.
The town of Darnmoor promises itself as ‘The Gateway to Happiness’. Within the town though is a world divided. The white population live on the paved streets and brick buildings, while down the old black road, past the tip are The Campgrounds.
Margaret lives out at the Campgrounds with her daughter Celie and Celie’s husband Tom. The family have their lives and their love for each other but they also know that once all the lands surrounding Darnmoor were theirs.
Tom’s got a mind to fix things though. He’s heading to the city where there’s the promise of men who’ll listen. Men who might affect change.
Except the people of Darnmoor aren’t looking for change and they don’t want the campgrounds and its residents closer to town.
Song of the Crocodile is a generational tale. Across decades of the mid-twentieth century the reader travels alongside members of the Billymil family and their lives in Darnmoor.
The book is a fiction about the very real stories of dispossession, oppression, often outright murder that are woven throughout the history of this country. Too often understood but rarely told.
As we move through the generations, Song of the Crocodile paints a tale of resilience against incredible hardship. I don’t want to say too much and reveal the story but truthfully much of this story is the stuff that we often feel cannot be spoken aloud.
From the outset we learn that lives in the Campgrounds are considered cheap. Even as Tom sets out to try and find a way to improve their lives forces are mustered against him.
The actions of the white townspeople; both overt and covert are heaped against The Billymil family as they are against all of the residents of the campgrounds. Despite this Song of the Crocodile shows us the endurance of The Billymil and how their connections; to each other, to their land and to their history carries them forward.
A part of this connection is the entwined lives of the family and teh ways their connection transcend their terrestrial existence. That felt like a mouthful, but I wanted to express the way that Simpson brings in elements of a broader conception of culture and spiritualism without resorting to overused terms like ‘magic-realism’.
Within the novel characters interact with cosmic, creator beings and thus we see their lives and their roles in the grand narrative extended. That’s not to say this is a fantasy novel, or that the book takes us into genre in any of the conventional ways.
The feeling I got as I read is that Nardi Simpson has invited us as readers to experience something of the storytelling that is intrinsic to her being. In doing so she shares an understanding of the world that includes multigenerational lineages that aren’t necessarily ended upon death. It also includes an entwined relationship between land, water and sky that sees human beings a part of the greater whole and hence subject and responsible for how they treat their environment.
I can’t help but reflect that my thoughts here are inadequate. They don’t fully capture my reading of Song of the Crocodile; the joys and rage at the turns of the family. My horror and guilt that as white Australians we are inheritors of the wrong side of these stories. Yes this is fiction but it speaks to a myriad tales that were covered up. Stories that must be heard and understood.
Go check out Nardi Simpson’s Song of the Crocodile