Combined Reviews: The Trout Opera by Matthew Condon

trout_opera.jpg Reviews of The Trout Opera
Matthew Condon
Random House

[This novel has been longlisted for the 2009 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. It was also shortlisted for the 2008 NSW Premier's Literary Award, and the 2008 Queensland Premier's Literary Awards; and longlisted for the 2008 Australia-Asia Literary Award.]

From the publisher's page:

THE TROUT OPERA - more than ten years in the writing - is a stunning epic novel that encompasses twentieth-century Australia. Opening with a Christmas pageant on the banks of the Snowy River in 1906 and ending with the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympics in 2000, it is the story of simple rabbiter and farmhand Wilfred Lampe who, at the end of his long life, is unwittingly swept up into an international spectacle. On the way he discovers a great-niece, the wild and troubled young Aurora, whom he never knew existed, and together they take an unlikely road trip that changes their lives. Wilfred, who has only ever left Dalgety once in almost a hundred years, comes face to face with contemporary Australia, and Aurora, enmeshed in the complex social problems of a modern nation, is taught how to repair her damaged life.

This dazzling story - marvellously broad in its telling and superbly crafted - is about the changing nature of the Australian character, finding the source of human decency in a mad world, history, war, romance, murder, bushfires, drugs, the fragile and resilient nature of the environment and the art of fly fishing. It's the story of a man who has experienced the tumultuous reverberations of Australian history while never moving from his birthplace on the Snowy, and it asks, what constitutes a meaningful life?

John Birmingham in "The Brisbane Times": "But I'm afraid that this year the hovercraft and the Bunnies will just have to remain unbuffed. Because this year you'll be buying Matty Condon's epic tome, The Trout Opera. Buy it for yourself, buy it for your friends or buy it for your difficult auntie but get off your worthless butt and buy it because this sucker is The Great Australian Novel. Ten years in the writing, beautifully realised, every goddamned page is a smack upside the head to the rest of us loser writers who couldn't hope to string together a single phrase with the pure bred artistry that Condon lavishes over nigh on 600 pages."
Carmel Bird in "The Age": "This is a grand novel with the scope of opera. The structure is seductive, shifting confidently from character to character, from one age to another, back and forth as the stories reveal themselves, as the lives move in tandem, cross, head for focal points, rise and fall."
Louise Toma on the "M/C Reviews" website: "A hundred years is a short time in the general spectrum of the cosmos. Heck, 250-years have gone by and Australia is still considered one of the youngest countries around, and mocked relentlessly for its lack of history by the whole of Europe. If you're a person, however, one-hundred years is a very, very long time; longer than most people expect to live. A person that old would have had an amazing life, all the wonderful development they would have witnessed, all the grand adventures they would have had. Then again, what makes a life worth living and how much experience can you cram in hundred, twenty-six or fifty-two years? When is the time to finish your life? When is the time to start over? Matthew Condon takes on some of the big questions and a large slice of Australian history in his very own opus, The Trout Opera."
Murray Waldren in the "NZ Listener": "Matthew Condon has earned his literary chops the hard way via the slog of daily journalism. In the past 20 years, he has published seven novels, a children's book and an exposé of the golf tragic's obsessions...The Trout Opera is his triumphant retort to the mockers, cover-blurbed by his friend Peter Carey as being 'sensual, sweet, creepy ... a triumph'. It's easy to see why Carey was hooked: The Trout Opera inhabits a parallel universe to his own rambunctious Illywacker, both sprawling overviews written from passionate affection and with a wry eye but also in an impatience of frustration...This is a novel filled with loss, grief and the quest for redemption, yet it sheds a corollary light on how resilient the human heart is. From its hallucinatory opening passage, where two whisky-supping high court judges on a hotel veranda are mesmerised by a giant trout walking across a bridge (a young Lampe in homemade costume), to its slightly OTT plot-tying Olympian extravaganza, it is a saga of extravagant aspiration."

Short notices
"LiteraryMinded" weblog: "The novel honours simplicity, substance, and peace, and laments the loss of closeness in a moment of quiet. An insightful, brilliant Australian novel, destined to become a classic."
"ANZLitLovers LitBlog": "The Trout Opera by Matthew Condon - this is a brilliant book and I don't understand why it wasn't nominated for the MF shortlist. It has an engaging plot, memorable characters and a vivid Australian setting, bringing to life the Snowy River in a moving portrait of Australian country life."

In his own words
"On writing The Trout Opera" by Matthew Condon

Angela Meyer on the "LiteraryMinded" weblog.
"The Book Show" on ABC Radio National.
Rosemary Sorenson in "The Australian".

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on January 7, 2009 2:29 PM.

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