'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.)