Reminiscent of Rodney Hall's Just Relations (1983) and, inevitably, of García Márquez, but a work of considerable...


The Aboriginal and European antecedents and origins of the remote Australian state of Tasmania are powerfully evoked in Flanagan's superb (1994) debut fiction, preceded in the US by his equally impressive later novel, The Sound of One Hand Clapping (2000).

The story's told in flashbacks (in the manner of Ambrose Bierce's "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge")—or "visions"—experienced by river guide Aljaz Cosini during the final moments of the journey, when his raft capsizes and he drowns. Those visions comprise a richly layered narrative that leaps among such events and experiences as Aljaz's own birth, his troubled youth and volatile relationship with (half-Chinese) Couta Ho (the mother of his infant daughter, who dies in her crib); the histories of (Yugoslavian) mother Sonja and racially mixed father Harry, who met in Trieste during WWII, and the entangled misadventures of Harry's colorful family, dominated by such memorable figures as Harry's possibly mad Aunt Ellie (no mean fantasist herself, psychically attuned to both Tasmania's persecuted "old people" and the spirits who pursue them) and his grandfather Ned Quade, murderer, cannibal, and escaped convict, who is nevertheless sustained by his ironical vision (which permeates the story, in several surprising ways) of 'the New Jerusalem." Flanagan mixes these heady materials skillfully, focusing on illustrations of the inherited rootlessness and restlessness that have shaped Aljaz ("It had become easier, not belonging; he had learnt to cope with that, had made a life out of it, drifting"). And the narrative is enlivened by such magical-realist particulars as a funeral at which the crucified Christ appears to bleed, the image of a baby stolen and raised by a "sea eagle," and the spectacle of a bedspread permanently stained by a woman's tears.

Reminiscent of Rodney Hall's Just Relations (1983) and, inevitably, of García Márquez, but a work of considerable originality nevertheless. Flanagan's two novels rank with the finest fiction out of Australia since the heyday of Patrick White.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-8021-1682-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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