What would you do if you turned on the television and saw you were the most wanted terrorist in Australia? Gina Davies is about to find out.
From the author of the international bestsellers The Sound of One Hand Clapping and Gould's Book of Fish comes a fast-paced thriller that paints a devastating picture of contemporary Australia.
Five days, three unexploded bombs, and every truth of your life turned into a lie. What would you do?
©2007 Richard Flanagan; (P)2007 Bolinda Publishing
" A true page-turner as well as a timely, pithy critique of celebrity culture and the politics of fearmongering." (Publisher's Weekly starred review)
I haven't read anything else by this author but was completely engaged and felt a wrench when I finished listening. The story is set in Sydney, Australia and has the seeming straight forward frank approach that often is used to characterise Australians. However, as the story unfolded around the main character, a pole dancer, I empathised with her completely as her view of the world changed. The story is beautifully read by an Australian. Highly recommended.
I haven't read any Richard Flanagan before so cannot compare his writing style in The Unknown Terrorist to other works. I suspect others would be more my cup of tea though.
The Unknown Terrorist is a fairly standard thriller which employs the mass media and an unscrupulous journalist as its evil. Our supposed heroine, Gina, also named throughout as The Doll, is hounded to madness over the period of just a few days by drummed up hysteria and the cynical machinations of anonymous powerful men in suits.
I was interested in the descriptions of Sydney, having never been to Australia. However, Flanagan's vision of the city is hardly tourist friendly! I liked his frequent mentions of the various immigrant populations, showing a country made up of many layers of cultures, much like Britain, and the way this was set against rampant hostility towards Muslims was also sadly familiar as this attitude is also widespread over here. The main characters never leapt from the page for me though which made it difficult for me to really invest in their story.
I'm not sure this book had decided what it wanted to be. It doesn't have the pace-at-all-costs approach of slick American thrillers, but the occasions where it tries for literary fiction fail too because of their isolation. My audio version was nicely narrated and passed a week of bus journeys, but I had hoped for a deeper novel and was ultimately a bit disappointed.
Yes as it isn't your normal theme
No maybe a bit sad
Scary how that could maybe happen to anyone
In all fairness to the author, I suspect that the sense of slightly depressed nihilism I feel after listening to this book was largely intentional. The all to convincing, but at the same time Kafkaesque, sense of injustice and cynicism is compelling, but I found the victim characters as bit hollow. In some respects this is entirely appropriate and underlines the point about the marginalised, but it also makes it difficult to engage with. I tended to find the passages with the antagonists much more arresting than those with Wilder and the Doll. I also found some of the more philosophical passages a bit strained - not sufficiently interesting to be justified on their own terms, nor effective enough at character-building.
I'm very glad I picked this up, but I'm not sure how strongly I'd recommend it. It is very well read and Humphrey Bower does a great job of bringing the dialogue and inner monologue alive.
"Beautiful, Gritty, Thought Provoking"
This book moves a person outside of their comfort zone and into a world in which they may have to realize that in their everyday life they may have been one of the villians in a parallel to this story. The book is beautiful in the detail it captures, in the people and scene it creates, in the emotion it evokes. I am still a bit haunted by this book, and for a piece of fiction to challenge how I see the world is very uncommon. This book does that. I found the style of the book interesting and the ability of the book to design the players from the fabric of reality accurate and disturbing. I would recommend that you read this book, it is an excellent piece of literature that opens a door to a world most of us will not venture into and yet we will see vignetts of our own world from time to time as events collide. Maybe, after you read this book you will, like myself question from time to time how you respond to what you are told.
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