The Tall Man: Death and Life on Palm Island by Chloe Hooper - review by Phillip Knightley

Phillip Knightley

Not Black and White

The Tall Man: Death and Life on Palm Island

By

Jonathan Cape 258pp £16.99 order from our bookshop
 

This is an important, brilliant, perceptive and, at the same time, depressing book. Reading it you will alternate between feelings of bewilderment, anger, elation and despair. The author, Chloe Hooper, a young Australian novelist, has turned to reportage to tell the story of two men from either side of the Australian racial divide, thrown by fate into a conflict in 2004 that only one of them survived. 

The white man was a handsome, charismatic, 34-year-old copper, Senior Sergeant Chris Hurley, a giant (6’7’’ tall and 19 stone) with long experience in Aboriginal communities and destined for high rank.

The Aboriginal was Cameron Doomadgee, thirty-six, whose family was from the far north of Australia, where in the nineteenth century massacres of Aboriginal men, women and children by white settlers are well documented. (In 1883 a young Englishwoman noted in her diary that her manager had ‘40 pairs

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