THE SOUND OF ONE HAND CLAPPING by Richard Flanagan

THE SOUND OF ONE HAND CLAPPING

KIRKUS REVIEW

Winner of the Australian Booksellers' Book of the Year Award, a passionate working-class tale (and first US publication) from a Tasmanian author. In 1989, an unhappy woman, Sonja Buloh, returns to remotest Tasmania to revisit scenes of her tortured childhood and to have a baby. Much of Flanagan’s story, though, is in flashback, being comprised of the tale, set in 1954, of Sonja’s father, Bojan, and his wife, Maria. Bojan and Maria are Slovenians who immigrated to Australia so that Maria could work on backcountry hydroelectric projects, then touted as the great precursor to prosperity much as such projects were in the American West. Maria, however, is bored and unsatisfied with her life and wanders off to her death in a blizzard, leaving Bojan to raise Sonja alone. He’s a sentimental man who loves to work with wood, but he’s also afflicted by his memories of war and by his eternal grieving for Maria. Depressed, he takes to drink, and when he’s drunk he beats his young daughter. Sober again, he has no memory of what he’s done, though Sonja is profoundly traumatized. Even as an adult in faraway Sydney, she finds herself unable to trust any man enough to fall in love'indeed, her out-of-wedlock baby seems almost immaculately conceived. Upon her return, nevertheless, daughter and father become reconciled; it is almost as if Sonja is the reappeared Maria, and her baby Sonja’s own infant self. Everyone is given another chance. Even the land reverts to its primitive state, the dam breaking at last in concert with these revitalized lives, as if its violation of nature had caused human woes, too. In his soap-opera plotting and authentic feel for working people, Flanagan owes much to Colleen McCullough. But there’s no denying the power in his own wild flights of prose. (First printing of 30,000)

Pub Date: March 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-87113-802-6
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2000




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