DEATH OF A RIVER GUIDE book cover   Death of a River Guide
Richard Flanagan

Cover illustration by Patrick Hall

Dustjacket synopsis:
"He feels himself tumbled by water, then suddenly slammed to a halt, feels rocks grip round his hips and his chest like tightening vices. Feels the water that was for a few seconds benign change its character immediately to that of a mad, rushing sadist, forcing his head and body forward and down and under.

"And he knows this moment has been a long time coming.

"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. In the rainforest waters that rush over him he sees those lives stripped of their surface realities, and finds a world where dreaming reasserts its power over thinking. As the river rises his visions growm more turbulent, and in the flood of the past Aljaz discovers the soul history of his country.

"Widely acclaimed, Death of a River Guide is an inspired novel; a lyrical torrent of love and redemption, of rage and pain and laughter tempered by the inevitability of loss."

"Flanagan, with his acute sense of the physical overlaid with an appreciation of the mystical, gets to the heart of things. . . For serious environmentalists this could be the novel." - Helen Elliott, Sunday Age

First Paragraph:

As I was born the umbilical cord tangled around my neck and I came into the world both arms flailing, unable to scream and thereby take in the air necessary to begin life outside the womb, being garrotted by the very thing that had until that time succoured me and given me life.

Such a sight you never clapped eyes upon!

And not only because I was being half strangled. For I was born in the caul, that translucent egg in which I had grown within the womb. Long before my damp rusty head was crowned between my mother's heaving flesh as I was painfully pushed out into this world, the caul should have ruptured. But I miraculously emerged from my mother still enclosed in that elastic globe of life, arriving in the world not dissimilarly to how I now depart it. I swam within a milky blue sac of amniotic fluid, my limbs jerking awkwardly, pushing with futile gestures at the membranes, my head obscured outside the sac by the wreath of umbilical cord. I made strange, desperate movements as if condemned always to see life through a thin mucousy film, separated from the rest of the world and the rest of my life by the things that had until then protected me. It was and is a curious sight, my birth.

From the Penguin paperback edition, 1996.

This novel was shortlisted for the 1995 Miles Franklin award.

This page and its contents are copyright © 2003-04 by Perry Middlemiss, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

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Last modified: December 20, 2004.