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Death of a River Guide by Richard Flanagan

Death of a River Guide (1994)

by Richard Flanagan

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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3801845,137 (3.95)76
Beneath a waterfall on the Franklin, Aljaz Cosini, river guide, lies drowning. Beset by visions at once horrible and fabulous, he relives not just his own life but that of his family and forebears, and finds a world where dreaming reasserts its power over thinking.



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» See also 76 mentions

English (17)  Dutch (1)  All languages (18)
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
‘’One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh. But what connects the two? What remains? What abideth in the earth forever?’’

My introduction to Richard Flanagan’s work was the award-winning The Narrow Road to the Deep North which didn’t particularly excite me. I was impressed with his talent for description and the communication of his characters’ thoughts but the story left me cold. Now, I have the blessing to have a wonderful boss. She adores books as much as I do and Death of a River Guide was her Easter gift to me. I can verify that I am glad because this novel, the debut of Richard Flanagan back in 1994, was one of the most beautiful and atmospheric reading moments of the year.

‘’You are given the gift of life and what happens? You want to throw it away!’’

Aljaz Cosini, a river guide of European origin, is trapped in Franklin River in Tasmania. Aljaz is waiting to be rescued and narrates his story and the course of his ancestors. Aljaz is waiting to be rescued and narrates his story and the curse of his ancestors. Because Aljaz is blessed and cursed by visions that demonstrate his past and the tumultuous journey of Tasmania, a land that remains a mystery to most of us. The immigrants, the native people whose home is snatched violently, the relationships, the thoughts of the tourists that desire to verify their preconceived notions of a country they know nothing about.

‘’My vessel is stopped and making no way through the water.’’

In ethereal, mystical, moving prose, Flanagan gives us a man that has seen and felt everything. The persecution of his ancestors, the first meeting of his parents, the life of the ones who shape his own course. He narrates his childhood under the guidance of a wise woman, Maria Magdalena, his love affair with an impressive girl, and the terrible loss he had to face. Aljaz becomes the instrument through which Flanagan comments on themes related to immigration, culture, imperialism, overcoming hardships. No theme is stronger, though, than the effervescent, instinctive will of the human being to push further, to resist the tendency to despair and start again. Sometimes, however, this proves to be a Herculean task.

Aljaz is a beautiful character, a man who fights against his fate. Surrounding him are characters that are rich and complex. Sonja and Harry, Couta Ho, Maria Magdalena, the Cockroach. Each one of them represents a human tendency, our feelings and our goals, our thoughts and deeds. With very little dialogue and haunting descriptive passages, Flanagan draws the portrait of a man and the story of a land as fascinating as it is mysterious.

‘’Children denied their parents and invented new lineages of respectable free settlers to replace the true genealogy of shame. The descendants of the convicts and the blackfellas became service-station attendants or shop assistants or lorry drivers or waitresses or clerks, if they were lucky. No one spoke. No one spoke.’’

My reviews can also be found on: https://theopinionatedreaderblog.wordpress.com/ ( )
  AmaliaGavea | May 31, 2019 |
Wonderful writing but oh so sad. With 5 kayaks sitting outside the house the book had to go before anyone else read it, but I'm very glad to have read it myself. ( )
  Ma_Washigeri | May 27, 2018 |
This is beautiful, gripping, at turns funny and at others heartbreaking. It's a rare treat too to be able to view my home state through another's eyes.

I had in my mind some biases against reading this, which turned out to be unfounded. I will have to read some more of Flanagan's work. ( )
  felius | Oct 5, 2017 |
This book is like a sneaker wave. For the first two-thirds, I liked it; his writing is wonderful, and the story interesting, but doesn't always completely work. Then, as the book comes to an end, Flanagan pulls the different threads together, made me laugh and cry, and I couldn't put the book down. Pretty amazingly, he made me desperate to finish even though the conclusion is in the title, after all.

The book takes place in the visions of the river guide, Aljaz Cosini; who is drowning in the Franklin River, and who sees, in flashes his life, and also the lives of his parents and more distant ancestors. Flanagan is very creative in his descriptions of Australian history, and there are lots of surprises along the way. Plus, just beautiful language as in this description:

"They passed snakes swimming, unraveling ripples in warm flat pools. They passed platypuses that floated like sticks as the rafts approached, then sank likes tones at the sound of a punter's exclamation, leaving only a few fatty bubbles on the water's surface. They startled a flock of swifts from a cliff face and saw a giant lobster sitting on a log at the river's edge, glistening iridescent greens and purples and blues in the sunlight, and even the punters did not have an immediate response to its proud perfection."

I read this because I loved The Narrow Road to the Deep North, this earlier book lacks the focus of that Booker Prize winner, but it does have a lot of heart. In the end, I liked it almost as much. ( )
  banjo123 | Jun 24, 2017 |
This is Richard Flanagan's first novel, and it is not an easy one to assess. It tells the story of Aljaz, a river guide who leads rafting parties down a Tasmanian river. From the start it is clear that Aljaz is dying, and the book describes his visions of his past, his ancestry and the wider history of Tasmania. Difficult to follow, but full of imagination. ( )
  bodachliath | Mar 1, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Richard Flanaganprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bragg, BillCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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