Dominique Wilson

Orphan Rock by Dominique Wilson

April 2022, no. 441

Dominique Wilson’s new novel is another foray into the field of historical fiction. Her two previous novels deal with the pain of living through periods of civil strife and migration, and cover long periods of time and several cultures: The Yellow Papers (2014) is set in China and Australia from the 1870s to the 1970s, while That Devil’s Madness (2016) moves from Paris to Algiers to Australia and back from the 1890s to 1970s.

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Is it possible to 'just pack up and go, and all your problems will stay behind?' Nicolette is hoping that's the case when we meet her literally on the road to a new life, troubled partner and toddler in tow. Louis, her grandfather, may well have asked the same; his earlier experiences of geographic and personal change form the alternate strand of the dual narrative ...

The three parts of Dominique Wilson’s story are linked together by racial prejudice, of Australians towards Asians, and of Chinese, Koreans, and Japanese towards Westerners. She picks up this well-worn thread in pre-Federation Australia and weaves it in and out of the narrative, tying it off when China is in the throes of the Cultural Revolution. During the twentieth century, her three men – two Chinese and one Australian – are afflicted by racism to different degrees. How strange, then, to call her book The Yellow Papers, without explaining the significance of that loaded adjective. What papers? Wartime telegrams, ancient documents, or something else?

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