Editorial Reviews for this title:
Death of a River Guide was called "haunting and ambitious" by The New York Times Book Review and "a remarkable achievement" by The Washington Post Book World. It confirms Richard Flanagan's place among the world's most remarkable voices. Aljaz Cosini is leading a group of tourists on a raft tour down Tasmania's wild Franklin River when his greatest fear is realized -- a tourist falls overboard. An ordinary man with many regrets, Aljaz rises to an uncharacteristic heroism, and offers his own life in trade. Trapped under a rapid and drowning, Aljaz is beset with visions both horrible and fabulous. He sees Couta Ho, the beautiful, spirited woman he loved, and witnesses his uncle Reg having his teeth pulled and sold to pay for a ripple-iron house. He sees cities grow from the wild rain forest and a tree burst into flower in midwinter over his grandfather's forest grave. As the entirety of Tasmanian life -- flora and fauna -- sings him home, Aljaz arrives at a world where dreaming reasserts its power over thinking, where his family tree branches into stories of all human families, stories that ground him in the land and reveal the soul history of his country. "A triumphant tour de force, a novel that succeeds brilliantly in its audacious design...." -- Philip Gerard, The Raleigh News & Observer "An enormous, intricate, intimate tapestry not only of the wilderness, but also of a family, an expansive tribal community." -- Michael Pakenham, The Baltimore Sun "Ricard Flanagan's second novel makes good on a truly soaring ambition and flirts with literary greatness." -- Robert Cohen, Chicago Tribune
In this brilliant, labyrinthine second novel, a drowning man named Aljaz Cosini is granted visions of his family history stretching into the distant past--even as he revisits his final days along the remote and treacherous Franklin River. Richard Flanagan's protagonist has been away from Tasmania for the last decade. Sick, lonely, and financially strapped, he returns to his hometown and soon runs into an old colleague known as Pig's Breath, who offers him a low-paying stint as a river guide: I can see that Pig's Breath knows Aljaz well enough to see that Aljaz desperately wants to visit the Franklin River country, that there is a need in him, which Pig's Breath does not have, to go back there, and that this is his only way of doing it. And while Aljaz sits there trying to look as if he is chewing over numbers, Pig's Breath can tell that what he is in fact doing is smelling the river, hearing it run, watching the rain mists rise from its valleys, drinking its tea-coloured waters from his cupped hands. Flanagan ( The Sound of One Hand Clapping) has been compared to Faulkner for his loving attention to place, but his narrative talents are more akin to those of Günter Grass. There are echoes of The Tin Drum in the picaresque tale of Aljaz's emergence from the womb, wrapped in the caul that suggests second sight. Throughout, a series of similarly magical occurrences lends sparkle, if little illumination, to these hardscrabble lives in the Tasmanian wilderness. All of which goes to explain why Death of a River Guide is an unusually rich novel, and one of Australia's most distinguished literary exports in recent years. --Regina Marler
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