Monday, 18 January 2010

The Sound of One Hand Clapping

So my reading effort of the year has its first milestone. A week ago I finished reading The Sound of One Hand Clapping, by Richard Flanagan. I got this on a whim, based on author name recognition, during a trip to the library, although when I visited Mum in Toowoomba, I remembered that she had recommended him to me a while back, partly on the historical links between her family history and his interest in Tasmania. That he is an Australian author also fits with my goal of reading more of my country's literature.

Unfortunately though, I can't really say that I loved this book. I found, especially in the first half of the book, that he really wallowed in the misery of the characters, without any sense of balance or, I suspect, realism. It felt like stacks on, and I wasn't into it. To an extent the first of these gripes was mitigated by the redemptive second half and conclusion of the book, but even so I never really developed any great affinity for or empathy with the characters. I also felt like his writing style was at times contrived and laboured. Perhaps that is partly a consequence of coming to the book having read Vonnegut, whose style is quite the opposite, but I didn't enjoy it as much. That all sounds very negative, which perhaps isn't a fair representation, since at times I did really enjoy the book, and some of the moments near the end are evocative and even emotional. I guess, though, that I had hoped for more.

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