In Wanting, Flanagan draws the parallels in the lives of the Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin and writer Charles Dickens, illustrating that both reason and desire coexist in all humans.
Mathinna, the native Aboriginal girl from the Van Dieman's Land was "adopted" by the Franklins as Lady Jane, Sir John's wife, wished to transform her into a proper English woman, but her real intentions were questionable.
In 1854, when the Arctic Voyagers failed to return, Lady Jane asked Dickens to defend her husband by refuting notion of cannibalism. Dickens wrote a play about the doomed Northwest Passage, starring himself and in the process fell in love with a young actress, Ellen Ternan.
All the characters were torn between reason and desire, especially when Lady Jane visited the St. Joseph Orphanage. She could have "saved" Mathinna... There are some raw and heart-wrenching depictions in the novel that haunt me after reading it. However, Flanagan was excellent in exploring the ramifications of colonialism and the moral dilemmas we must face up to.