‘The sign at the entrance of town is neither informative nor welcoming.’
There’s a sign at the edge of town: ‘Darnmoor, The Gateway to Happiness’. But what does this really mean?
This is a town neatly laid out, a town where proximity to the town centre matters. A town where, if you follow a bush track most know as the road to the tip, through a pathway known as ‘Old Black Road’ you’ll find The Campgrounds. Margaret Lightning is one of the inhabitants of The Campgrounds. She rises early in the morning to walk to her workplace: ‘two large coppers, an incinerator, and a washing line that spanned the width of the block behind the Darnmoor District Hospital.’
Margaret’s daughter and son-in-law, Celie and Tom Billymil live with her. Celie is pregnant, Tom is hoping for a better life for his family.
Scratch the surface of Darnmoor, and you will find tension between the Indigenous and settler families. Different rules, different expectations. Manipulation and exploitation, often less obvious than violence but just as harmful. And patterns are repeated.
Ms Simpson follows several stories, including those of Margaret, Celie, and Celie’s daughter Mili. This is a story of hardship, heartbreak, and hope. But there are secrets as well, imbalances of power which lead to anger and resentment. There is always an opportunist waiting to take advantage. And who speaks for the country?
‘As their feet dangled over the old waterway, lineage and custom flowed into the child.’
In this beautifully written story, with descriptions of land and the importance of connection, Ms Simpson explores what happens when connectedness is disrupted. This is achieved in part through ancestral spirits who try to guide members of the family. Stories are important, as is choice.
‘This song was given to me by my master and it is the last I will sing. It is the Song of the Crocodile, the greatest, most powerful song in this country.’
I finished this novel profoundly moved by Ms Simpson’s storytelling. ‘Song of the Crocodile’ is an exceptional novel.