Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Death Of A River Guide by Richard Flanagan

Aljaz Cosini, a Tasmanian, has signed on as lead guide on a rafting trip down the Franklin River in Tasmania.  Cosini has been away from his homeland for a decade and is not in the best of shape for such a grueling job, but he's broke and needs a job.  His co-guide, Cockroach, is young and strong but doesn't know the river at all.  Still, it's a week and they need the money.  They collect their group who are a typical group of tourists and set out.  But the river is in the mood for blood.  The weather turns and steady rain causes the river to rise precipitously  When one of the tourists makes a foolhardy move, Aljaz jumps into the river to save him.  Instead, he finds himself head down stuck between two rocks, slowly drowning.

As his last minutes tick away, Aljaz finds himself having a series of visions.  He sees his life rush past, with jobs from footballer to sailor to handyman.  His marriage to the only woman he has ever really loved flashes past with the reason it failed in the biggest tragedy of his life.  He not only sees his own life, but that of his ancestors.  That includes his parents.   Harry marries an Eastern European woman he finds and falls in love with in Italy in a misbegotten attempt to become a sewing machine salesman.  They return instead to Tasmania where they live out their lives, their closest friend the midwife who assists at Aljaz's birth.  But Aljaz sees even further back to ancestors such as Ned Quade, who comes to Tasmania as the result of transportation for a crime he doesn't even remember.  He also has visions of the Aboriginal woman whose place in his genetic background is never talked about.

Richard Flanagan is acknowledged as one of Australia's premier authors.  He won the 2014 Man Booker Prize for his novel, The Narrow Road To The Deep North, an exploration of the Australian experience during the second World War and the Japanese POW camps.  This was Richard Flanagan's second novel.  As always, he explores the history and lush environment of the land he lives in and loves.  He captures the beauty and the despair that is the characteristic of the people who live there.  He explores the exploitation of both Tasmania's natural resources and the native people who are supplanted there by those who come and conquer the land.  This book is recommended for readers of literary fiction.

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