Read #148

Richard Flanagan – The Living Sea of Waking Dreams

Want a book that out-Murakamis Murakami? That just chucks surreal at you and moves on without batting an eyelid…That deals with despair, hopelessness and tops it off with more despair? Stopping along the way to bewail the destruction that man is reaping on the Earth. And is beautifully written.

This is the Christmas present you probably didn’t know yet that you wanted.

Anna’s mum Francie, is dying. For all the 280 pages or so of the book, she is in ICU or hospice care, slipping away inch by inch. Anna’s surviving siblings try to decide what is the best course of action, often not with the best of motives – they change their minds, but can’t reach consensus.

Meanwhile, bits of Anna disappear – they don’t drop off or rot, or get removed by purpose or accident – the next time she looks her ring finger has gone, or her knee, or her breast…and later an eye and what had been her son. There is no pain and no “phantom limb” feeling. These pieces of her anatomy just cease to exist – she describes it as her “silent leprosy“. Not everyone appears to notice, which is equally distressing to Anna. As you can imagine.

Terrifying, compelling, bizarre – just slightly off-centre, as the best things usually are. I have yet to read anything less than superb by Flanagan.


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