peteg's blog - noise - books - 2021 11 19 RichardFlanagan DeathOfARiverGuide

Richard Flanagan: Death of a River Guide.

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Kindle. The first novel Flanagan wrote and the last for me to read. Is it uncharitable to say it's his best? That might perhaps be because it is edited more tightly than what came later. Even so there's still some repetition. It did take me two goes to get past the first chapter.

The best parts are his wide-eyed fascination with the wilds of Tasmania, specifically the Gordon/Franklin river system over the past century and a bit. People's origins are a big part of that, and I got a bit lost in the family tree early on. More engrossing are the tight portraits of the more central personalities. I think Couta Ho could've used some rounding out. The magic realism, of Aljaz Cosini's visions while he drowns (spoiler: he does drown) is handled with a light and deft touch that eluded Flanagan in the more indulgent Gould's Book of Fish. The semaphores are a great gag.

Goodreads. Jennifer Reese put her fingers on its flaws, chiefly insufficient focus. The Slovenian parts were made redundant by The Sound of One Hand Clapping but I guess he wasn't to know that at the time.