Death of a River Guide

Flanagan, Richard

Published by Grove Press, 2001
ISBN 10: 0802116825 / ISBN 13: 9780802116826
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Synopsis: Aljaz Cosini, river guide, is leading a group of tourists on a raft down Tasmania's wild Franklin River when his greatest fear is realized - a tourist falls into the river and may drown. An ordinary man with many regrets, Aljaz rises to an uncharacteristic heroism and offers his own life in trade.
Aljaz becomes trapped under rapids and waits in the hope of being rescued, his mind flooded with visions both horrible and fabulous, reliving the history of his own life and those of his forbears. He sees Couta Ho, the beautiful, spirited woman he loved, and he sees how that love was broken by tragic loss. He sees his pipe-smoking Auntie Ellie pursued by cows she thinks are evil spirits. As cities grow from the wild rain forest he witnesses Ellie's husband, Reg, having his teeth pulled and sold to pay for a ripple-iron house.
As towns turn blue, as whales fly over mountains, and as a tree bursts into flamboyant flower every midwinter at his grandfather's forest grave, Aljaz discovers himself traveling down a river, but it is no river he recognizes. It leads him to a world where dreaming reasserts its power over thinking, where his family tree branches into stories that are Aboriginal, Celtic, Italian, Irish, Chinese, Slovene - stories that ground him in the land. As the river rises and his visions grow more turbulent, Aljaz discovers within them the soul history of his country.
Death of a River Guide is the story of one man who discovers that there is nothing in his extraordinary universe to which he is unconnected: plants and animals as well as men and women, small things as well as large. It is a book about family and place, and the roots that pull us back to our origins. Earthy, magical, comic, and tragic by turns, it is a novel that celebrates life and confirms Richard Flanagan as one of the world's most exciting new voices.

Review: 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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Bibliographic Details

Title: Death of a River Guide
Publisher: Grove Press
Publication Date: 2001
Book Condition: Good
Edition: 1st American ed.

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Book Description Grove/Atlantic, Incorporated. Hardcover. Condition: Very Good. A copy that has been read, but remains in excellent condition. Pages are intact and are not marred by notes or highlighting, but may contain a neat previous owner name. The spine remains undamaged. At ThriftBooks, our motto is: Read More, Spend Less. Seller Inventory # G0802116825I4N00

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Book Description Grove/Atlantic, Incorporated. Hardcover. Condition: Good. A copy that has been read, but remains in clean condition. All pages are intact, and the cover is intact. The spine may show signs of wear. Pages can include limited notes and highlighting, and the copy can include previous owner inscriptions. At ThriftBooks, our motto is: Read More, Spend Less. Seller Inventory # G0802116825I3N00

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Book Description Grove/Atlantic, Incorporated. Hardcover. Condition: Very Good. A copy that has been read, but remains in excellent condition. Pages are intact and are not marred by notes or highlighting, but may contain a neat previous owner name. The spine remains undamaged. At ThriftBooks, our motto is: Read More, Spend Less. Seller Inventory # G0802116825I4N00

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