Song of the Crocodile by Nardi Simpson, Can be read in a few days depending on your speed, Adult Fiction
(TW: rape on page but not in major detail)
Some stories are meant to be visual. Some stories are meant to be oral. And some stories can only be seen through the mind’s eye. Song of the Crocodile is one such book.
Simpson’s debut novel is a beautiful exploration of family, community, racism, and the legacies of colonialism. Told through multiple points of view, across time, and even across planes, we meet the Billymil family. The Billymil’s have lived in the Campgrounds, an area on the outskirts of Darnmoor reserved for the Yuwaalaraay people, for at least three generations. We begin the story in the 1950/60s with Celie and Tom as both are looking towards the future.
As the story progresses, we meet many more family members, including Margaret (Celie’s mom) and Mili (Celie and Tom’s daughter), ancestors who passed before the book even begins and ones who join them as the story progresses, other members of the Campground, and the white folks who live in Darnmoor.
A key driver of the plot is the tensions between the original Indigenous landowners who have been pushed to the outskirts and the settler colonizers who run Darnmoor and, by extension, run the Campground. While family is at the heart of the story, the Billymil family becomes the focus by which Simpson explores generational trauma, long-term impacts of colonialism, racist and sexual violence, the balance between progress and honoring the past, and how colonialism still operates today.
Song of the Crocodile is nothing short of brilliant. It is the perfect example of why the written word is such a powerful medium. The writing is stellar. And while it can take a few chapters to get into the flow of switching between POVs and between the living and ancestral planes, once you do, you are pulled into a story that refuses to let go.