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The Living Sea of Waking Dreams (2020)

by Richard Flanagan

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22912115,793 (3.64)8
"From the author of the Booker Prize-winning The Narrow Road to the Deep North comes a wrenching novel of family, climate change, and the resilience of the human spirit--an elegy to our disappearing world. 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, subjected to increasingly desperate medical interventions, she instead turns her focus to her hospital window, through which she escapes 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, though no one else notices. All Anna can do is keep her mother alive, stay the course that she and her brothers have set. But the window keeps opening wider, taking Anna and the reader ever deeper into an eerily gorgeous story about hope and love, hospital beds and orange-bellied parrots, beauty and solitude and regret. An ember storm of a novel, The Living Sea of Waking Dreams lays bare the interconnectedness of humans and the natural world, and makes an impassioned plea to avert our shared fate"--… (more)
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» See also 8 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
Needy and self indulgent. ( )
  vdt_melbourne | Nov 20, 2023 |
Almost DNF’ed but some parts (the realist ones) were too strong not to follow through to the conclusion. ( )
  LizzySiddal | Dec 27, 2022 |
“It wasn’t enough for Terzo that their mother had not died. It wasn’t enough that she lived in her sea of waking dreams. In Terzo’s view, she had to live like us, rationally, in a rational universe. And as there was to be no death, nor could there be any other life.”

Eighty-seven-year-old Francie is in a Tasmanian hospital. Her health is declining. Her three adult children, Anna, Terzo, and Tommy, decide to keep her alive as long as possible, requiring ever-increasing efforts. Anna, the primary character, experiences vanishing body parts, as if she is being erased, and no one notices. The story is set against a backdrop of the recent Australian wildfires.

This book portrays how guilt can negatively influence actions. The kids love their mother, so shouldn’t they do everything possible to keep her alive? Isn’t life better than death? Even when Francie begs to be “let go” they willfully misunderstand her. It raises the issue of quality of life. [Obviously, people currently dealing with these situations may want to avoid this book for now.]

The author comments on how social media distracts people from addressing important matters: “The more things changed the harder people stared into their screens, living elsewhere, the real worlds now no more than a simulacrum of the screen world, their real lives the shadow of their online lives. The more people vanished the more they asserted themselves online as if in some grotesque equation or transfer.”

It also provides commentary on the decline of the natural world and the importance of engaging in it. The writing is powerful. It is a sad story, and at times deeply disturbing, but definitely thought-provoking.
( )
  Castlelass | Oct 30, 2022 |
Profound, beautiful read about the tragic path caused by our ignorance on climate change. ( )
  tandah | May 30, 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 |
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
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Epigraph
To the axe of the spoiler and self-interest fell a prey;
And Crossberry Way and old Round Oak’s narrow lane 
With its hollow trees like pulpits, I shall never see again: 
Inclosure like a Bonaparte let not a thing remain, 
It levelled every bush and tree and levelled every hill 
And hung the moles for traitors — though the brook is running still, 
It runs a naked brook, cold and chill. 
 

         — John Clare, ‘Remembrances’
Dedication
For David and Diane Masters
  — lighthouse keepers —  
First words
Her hand.
Quotations
Shouldn’t stories work towards something that we can’t get anywhere else? he said.  It wouldn’t be enough, sure.  But maybe it would be something.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"From the author of the Booker Prize-winning The Narrow Road to the Deep North comes a wrenching novel of family, climate change, and the resilience of the human spirit--an elegy to our disappearing world. 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, subjected to increasingly desperate medical interventions, she instead turns her focus to her hospital window, through which she escapes 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, though no one else notices. All Anna can do is keep her mother alive, stay the course that she and her brothers have set. But the window keeps opening wider, taking Anna and the reader ever deeper into an eerily gorgeous story about hope and love, hospital beds and orange-bellied parrots, beauty and solitude and regret. An ember storm of a novel, The Living Sea of Waking Dreams lays bare the interconnectedness of humans and the natural world, and makes an impassioned plea to avert our shared fate"--

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Book description
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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