Song of the Crocodile
Hachette, $32.99 pb, 404 pp
When you begin to read a book about a remote town heralded by the sign ‘Darnmoor, The Gateway to Happiness’, you know it’s not going to be a happy place. The opening chapter of Nardi Simpson’s first novel describes a neat, drab town of streets with names like Grace and Hope. Under a vast cerulean sky, a whitewashed war memorial lies at its ‘bleeding and dead centre’.
Outside town, a bush track leads past the rubbish tip to the banks of the Mangamanga River and to a hardscrabble settlement known as the Campgrounds. This is the home of the land’s original inhabitants before the white settlers arrived. Darnmoor is a grim place of de facto apartheid, where Indigenous families eke out whatever humble living they can, under the heel of the respectable and resentful white folk who consider them nothing but a disgrace to their town.
Nardi Simpson is a Yuwaalaraay woman from the north-west New South Wales freshwater plains. She’s already made her mark as a composer and playwright and as one half of the singing duo the Stiff Gins. A musician’s sensibility to voice and rhythm enhances this engrossing lyrical tale, which won a black&write! Writing Fellowship in 2018.