Winner of the Australian Bookseller's Choice Award, this is a modern Australian classic set in Tasmania.
In 1954, in a construction camp for a hydroelectric dam in the remote Tasmanian highlands, Bojan Buloh had brought his family to start a new life away from Slovenia, the privations of war, and refugee settlements. One night, Bojan's wife walked off into a blizzard, never to return - leaving Bojan to drink too much to quiet his ghosts, and to care for his three-year-old daughter, Sonja, alone.
Thirty-five years later, Sonja returns to Tasmania and a father haunted by memories of the European war and other, more recent horrors. As the shadows of the past begin to intrude ever more forcefully into the present, Sonja's empty life and her father's living death are to change forever.
©1997 Richard Flanagan (P)2012 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd
Prof of Global Health & Development - wide interests, fiction & non-, politics, justice & rights, culture & food, travel, art & creativity
Beautifully written and narrated - the story of a Slovenian unskilled worker, migrating to Tasmania in search of a better future. Against the backdrop of racism, alcohol and violence, we learn of the stories experienced by these migrants, prior to their departure from Europe, and of how the violence recurs to dominate family members in Tasmania.
Beautifully written and narrated, the violence is as predictable as inevitable, anticipated by the reader in the same way that Sylvia, the daughter, awaits her drunken father's repeated physical abuse.
It's a story also of resilience by a young woman who exercises her agency to escape and take control of her own life, despite all the adversity, and about the deep bonds exerted by family alongside the hurt.
The novel informs us also of the post-World War II Europeans who settled in Australia and helped build its infrastructure, and of the systematic racism, exploitation and poverty they faced. The stories and tragedies from their European homelands structure their identities and challenging lives in Tasmania.
From one generation to the next, prior identity is attenuated and new identities formed. Despite much bleakness, this is also a story of agency and resilience, of overcoming violence and abuse, and of building the future.
Retired and doing what I like now...
I have no idea.....
The sample made it sound intriguing, but alas it was defiantly not that ! Dull boring story all about Sonia's drunk,abusive father.who lives in the past most of the time ,that's when he's not battering or neglecting his daughter...no wonder his wife took off at the beginning of this load of tripe. She knew what was coming !! I must admit that I have not read or listened to any of R.Flanagan's books before and after this one ,I will be leaving them well alone.
I love " Hump" he is one of my favourites, he was the main reason I persevered with this book and also the reason I pick this book. Bryce Courtney is a master storyteller and Hump makes his words " Sing " he made a super job of this story,
All of them !
Nope.. Said it all.
I liked Humphrey Bower's narration - just enough of an Antipodean accent to give a character to the prose and 'place' the story, but thankfully more neutral than some other narrators (Richard Flanagan's rather grating narration of 'Narrow Road to the Deep North' comes to mind).
Possibly 'The Road Home' by Rose Tremain or 'Small Island' by Andrea Levy, which are both stories about immigrants, but for me they don't come close to the sheer beauty of Flanagan's writing.
There are a couple of periods of absolute joy in the book, namely when Bojan finds love for the first time after his wife's departure and the very last sequences in the book, which counterpoint the dark tone of the rest of the book extremely well.
The metaphor of the edelweiss as both a symbol of love (because of the difficulty and danger of picking it in its cliff setting) and of the journey made by Bojan and Maria is exquisite - fragile, beautiful and incredibly painful all at the same time.
A number of readers/listeners have called this book depressing, and indeed, the story is difficult to read at times, but Flanagan creates characters one can identify with and care about, and his prose is so exquisite that it carries you through the squalor and the difficulties of Bojan and Sonja's existence. This is a powerful and important book and illuminates a little told story - I would urge anyone who wants a 'serious' book to read/listen to to try it.
"Far from easy listening"
But don't let that turn you off. Great read but complex. A library keeper for re-listening from time to time. Like a good wine I think it will grow on those with the tenacity to go the distance.
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