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The Living Sea of Waking Dreams: A novel

by Richard Flanagan

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15910148,022 (3.73)5
In a world of perennial fire and growing extinctions, Anna's aged mother is dying-if her three children would just allow it. Condemned by their pity to living she increasingly escapes through her hospital window into visions of horror and delight. When Anna's finger vanishes and a few months later her knee disappears, Anna too feels the pull of the window. She begins to see that all around her others are similarly vanishing, but no one else notices. All Anna can do is keep her mother alive. But the window keeps opening wider, taking Anna and the reader ever deeper into a strangely beautiful story about hope and love and orange-bellied parrots.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
Profound, beautiful read about the tragic path caused by our ignorance on climate change. ( )
  tandah | May 30, 2022 |
Five stars for being important. Five stars for originality and artistry. Four stars for being difficult without being completely unreadable. Three stars for overall enjoyment, but I suppose a lot of great art is not really meant to be enjoyed. ( )
  dsc73277 | Mar 22, 2022 |
This weird novel revolves around erasure and loss. This included loss of body parts, habitat and animal species, personal items and centrally the three main character's mother who is wasting away in the hospital. The closer to death she is the more crazed the siblings are to keep her alive. The irony here is as time passes she actually wants to die. The book is well written and the author is at the top of his game. But, I am not sure about the vanishing fingers, hands, kneecaps etc. ( )
  muddyboy | Nov 28, 2021 |
Read 2021. ( )
  sasameyuki | Oct 14, 2021 |
In The Living Sea of Waking Dreams author Richard Flanagan tells the story of Anna, an architect working in Sydney, but born and raised in Tasmania. As Anna approaches her sixtieth year, her mother begins to fail, and Flanagan plays out this family drama against a 21st-Century backdrop of apocalyptic environmental disasters. Society’s resulting unspooling reflects that of Mother Earth’s suffering ecosphere, and all this serves as backdrop as Anna and her two brothers hash out what to do about their own mother. The brilliant Flanagan not only poignantly shows human weakness in the face of loss, he manages to skewer our modern grasping mania for material wealth at the same time. It’s a daring, balanced, bravura performance.

Anna and her second brother gang up on the ineffectual older brother to overrule him and dictate the care their mother will receive. The results are ghastly for poor Francie, the mother, who must endure months and months of progressively more agonizing treatment until she can no longer express herself: she’s unable to repeat her pleas to be let go. Just when descriptions of the mother during her hospital stay become unbearable for the reader, they get worse. Just as Anna’s own perceptions of herself becomes shaky and maybe unreliable, we find ourselves instructed to believe them; this pitches the story into fantastical realms, which ratchets the tension further.

Does all this sound unappealing? Does it sound depressing? It might, depending on your preferences. But: Flanagan’s construct and treatment will reward you with his keen eye for modern greed and arrogance, both personal and societal; the dynamics of present-day privilege, based as it is on balance sheets personal and financial; the utter disregard for Earth’s natural and human resources; a family’s callous treatment of its one member free of mental instability; and a professional woman’s harrowing journey to life-threatening illness.

Almost too many themes to recount: a heritage of family strife, deriving at least in part from a priest’s pedophilia; a natural environment reduced to smoke and ash, which Flanagan uses to confound everyone’s sight and breathing; the injustices inherent in grasping and wielding the power inhering to wealth; the distracting and counterproductive effect of social media; a close-up journey with a woman losing her senses. The myopic attention to these themes is so close and the telling so unrelenting that we are startled by the late appearance of a party from outside, a party who introduces a hopeful element whether we deserve it or not. But that’s the beauty of Flanagan’s work here. He reminds us to keep our perspective on the larger picture and to nurture hope in it.

Stick with this one. It’s distressing, dismaying, and at times deeply pessimistic, but it’s Flanagan. I need not say more.

https://bassoprofundo1.blogspot.com/2021/07/the-living-sea-of-waking-dreams-by.h... ( )
  LukeS | Jul 1, 2021 |
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In a world of perennial fire and growing extinctions, Anna's aged mother is dying-if her three children would just allow it. Condemned by their pity to living she increasingly escapes through her hospital window into visions of horror and delight. When Anna's finger vanishes and a few months later her knee disappears, Anna too feels the pull of the window. She begins to see that all around her others are similarly vanishing, but no one else notices. All Anna can do is keep her mother alive. But the window keeps opening wider, taking Anna and the reader ever deeper into a strangely beautiful story about hope and love and orange-bellied parrots.

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In a world of perennial fire and growing extinctions, Anna’s aged mother is dying—if her three children would just allow it. Condemned by their pity to living she increasingly escapes through her hospital window into visions of horror and delight.

When Anna’s finger vanishes and a few months later her knee disappears, Anna too feels the pull of the window. She begins to see that all around her others are similarly vanishing, but no one else notices. All Anna can do is keep her mother alive. But the window keeps opening wider, taking Anna and the reader ever deeper into a strangely beautiful story about hope and love and orange-bellied parrots.
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