To Name Those Lost

Written by Rohan Wilson
Review by Janice Ottersberg

In the city of Launceston on the island of Tasmania in 1874, 12-year-old William Toosey has lived his young life in extreme poverty. His father Thomas abandoned the family for the life of a lawless and drunk wanderer. When his mother dies suddenly, William is left homeless, starving, and struggling to survive the brutal streets on his own. As soon as Thomas becomes aware of his son’s plight, he starts the journey back to Launceston. In Thomas’s past he was a convict transported to Australia and earned his freedom by joining a roving party whose sole purpose was to search out and murder Aborigines. He has always lived a brutal and murderous life in a very violent and lawless land. As Thomas makes his way to William, he is being tracked by the Irishman Fitheal Flynn and his mysterious hooded companion. William robbed the pair of all their money and they are out for revenge. But this revenge goes far beyond just recovering their money; they are out for blood.

On the surface, this sounds like a dark and depressing book, but looking deeper, it is really about loss, and the love and connections that remain long after a loved one is gone. The plotline and characters in this award-winning Australian novel are unforgettable. The plot moves along quickly with good pacing. The reason behind the Irishman and his hooded companion’s hunger for revenge are slowly revealed with perfect timing in the hands of an expert writer. Wilson’s beautiful writing stands out in harsh contrast to the world of violence, heartache, and human suffering he depicts. This wonderful quote towards the end of the book says it all: “And the sound of love is to name those lost who lived for others.” I loved this book, and I’m so glad to discover Rohan Wilson.