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


Jonathan Cape 258pp £16.99

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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