Richard Flanagan was the fifth of six children. He was educated at state schools, leaving school at the age of sixteen to work as a labourer in the bush. He later returned to further his education at the University of Tasmania and went on to win a Rhodes Scholarship.
In addition to his novels, which have won both national and international acclaim, Flanagan has also published a history of the Tasmanian Green Movement , The Rest of the World Is Watching (1990), with Cassandra Pybus, A Terrible Beauty: History of the Gordon River Country (1985) and On the Mountain (1996), a pictorial and natural history of Mount Wellington, with Jamie Kirkpatrick and photographs by Peter Dombrovskis.
Flanagan's 2014 novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North, won the Man Booker Prize. It was also awarded the Prime Minister's Prize for fiction in 2014 alongside Steven Carroll's A World of Other People. He donated the $40,000 to the Indigenous Literacy Fund, saying "If just one of those children in turn becomes a writer, if just one brings to Australia and to the world an idea of the universe that arises out of that glorious lineage of 60,000 years of Australian civilisation, then I will think this prize has rewarded not just me, but us all."
'A novel of the cruelty of war, and tenuousness of life and the impossibility of love.
'August, 1943. In the despair of a Japanese POW camp on the Thai-Burma death railway, Australian surgeon Dorrigo Evans is haunted by his love affair with his uncle's young wife two years earlier. Struggling to save the men under his command from starvation, from cholera, from beatings, he receives a letter that will change his life forever.
'This savagely beautiful novel is a story about the many forms of love and death, of war and truth, as one man comes of age, prospers, only to discover all that he has lost.' (Publisher's blurb)
At the beginning of World War II, Lady Sarah Ashley travels from her home in England to Northern Australia to confront her husband, whom she believes is having an affair. He is in the country to oversee the selling of his enormous cattle station, Faraway Downs. Her husband sends Drover, an independent stockman, to transport her to Faraway Downs. When Lady Sarah arrives at the station, however, she finds that her husband has been murdered (allegedly by King George, an Aboriginal elder) and that cattle station manager Neil Fletcher is trying to gain control of Faraway Downs, so that Lesley 'King' Carney will have a complete cattle monopoly in the Northern Territory.
Lady Sarah is captivated by Nullah (King George's grandson) son of an Aboriginal mother and an unknown white father. When Nullah tells her that he has seen her cattle being driven onto Carney's land, Fletcher beats him. Lady Sarah fires Fletcher, deciding to try to run the cattle station herself. To save the property from Carney, she enlists the aid of Drover; together, they drive 2,000 head of cattle across hundreds of miles of the country's most unforgiving land. In the course of the journey, she falls in love with both Drover and the Australian landscape.
Lady Sarah, Nullah, and Drover live together happily at Faraway Downs for two years, while Fletcher (the actual murderer of Lady Sarah's husband and very likely the father of Nullah) kills Carney, marries his daughter, and takes over Carney's cattle empire. When the authorities send Nullah to live on Mission Island with the other half-Aboriginal children, Lady Sarah is devastated. In the meantime, she works as a radio operator in Darwin.
When the Japanese attack the island and Darwin in 1942, Lady Sarah fears that Nullah has been killed and Drover, who had quarrelled with Lady Sarah and left the station, believes Lady Sarah has been killed. Learning of Nullah's abduction to Mission Island, however, he sets out to rescue him. Lady Sarah decides to sell Faraway Downs to Fletcher and return to England. Drover and Nulla sail back into port at Darwin as Lady Sarah is about to depart, and the three are reunited. Fletcher, distraught at the death of his wife, attempts to shoot Nullah, but is speared by King George and dies.
'It is 1839. A young Aboriginal girl, Mathinna, is running through the long wet grass of an island at the end of the world to get help for her dying father, an Aboriginal chieftain. Twenty years later, on an island at the centre of the world, the most famous novelist of the day, Charles Dickens, realises he is about to abandon his wife, risk his name, and forever after be altered because of his inability any longer to control his intense passion.
Connecting the two events are the most celebrated explorer of the age, Sir John Franklin - then governor of Van Diemen's Land - and his wife, Lady Jane, who adopt Mathinna, seen as one of the last of a dying race, as an experiment. Lady Jane believes the distance between savagery and civilisation is the learned capacity to control wanting. The experiment fails, the Franklins throw the child onto the streets and into a life of prostitution and alcoholism. A few years later Mathinna is found dead in a puddle. She is nineteen years old. By then Sir John too is dead, lost in the blue ice of the Arctic seeking the North West Passage. A decade later evidence emerges that in its final agony, Franklin's expedition resorted to the level and practice of savages: cannibalism. Lady Jane enlists Dickens's aid to put an end to such scandalous suggestions.
Dickens becomes ever more entranced in the story of men entombed in ice, recognising in its terrible image his own frozen inner life. He produces and stars in a play inspired by Franklin's fate to give story to his central belief: that discipline and will can conquer desire. And yet the play will bring him to the point where he is finally no longer able to control his own wanting and the consequences it brings.
Based on historic events, Wanting is a novel about art, love, and the way in which life is finally determined never by reason, but only ever by wanting.' (Provided by publisher.)