Combined Reviews: Sons of the Rumour by David Foster

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sons_of_the_rumour.jpg    Sons of the Rumour
David Foster
Pan Macmillan

[This novel has been longlisted for the 2010 Miles Franklin Award.]

From the publisher's page

Sons of the Rumour is nothing short of a dazzling and genre-defying work of genius. Foster retells the tale of the legendary eighth-century King Shahrban of Persia who, furious at his wife's infidelity, has decided to marry and then behead a fresh virgin every day. But then the king meets Scheherazade, a beauty of such wiles and storytelling gifts she manages to entertain the him for 1001 nights, staving off death for both herself and her countrywomen. In the process, she also bears him three sons, wisely educates him in morality and kindness, and eventually convinces him to take her as his lawful wife.

Intersecting with the historical tale is the story of Al Morrisey - a middle-aged, Anglo-Irish, former jazz-drumming everyman, on the run from a failed marriage, and cursed with Freudian daydreams of his mother and peculiar nightmares of all things Persian - as he vainly attempts to reconcile the past with the present and reclaim some of his youthful vigour.

Ingeniously manipulating the frame tale of the Arabian Nights, and utilising all his narrative gifts of adventurous satire, David Foster has produced a work of fiction like no other. Sprawling, ambitious, explicit but frequently hilarious, Sons of the Rumour is a modern masterpiece, an utterly original novel by one of Australia's greatest living writers, a man who the Sydney Morning Herald critic Andrew Riemer has called Patrick White's worthy successor.


Susan Lever in "The Australian": "This is certainly fiction, but it is hardly what most readers consider a novel. It may recall Rushdie's Satanic Verses with its modern take on ancient texts, but Sons of the Rumour values stories as the means of understanding the mysteries. Foster adopts the premodern form of the literary anatomy to range over a mass of disparate stories, opinions, learning and vulgarity as he digs deep into the philosophical origins of sexual and religious behaviour...The book may be read as a form of spiritual exercise for author and reader, an inquiry into the possibilities for spirituality for unbelievers, when atheism has become a rallying point. It is also an entertaining tour de force by a writer in mature command of language. It is Foster at his very best, overwhelming the reader with his imagination, comic energy, wisdom and the richness of his material."

James Ley in "Australian Book Review": "Sons of the Rumour, Foster's fourteenth novel, is his most substantial and brilliant work since The Glade within the Grove (1996). A roiling, historical, pantheological satre, it is alos very much an extension of the themes that have driven his remarkable fiction for more than four decades. The novel is explicity concerned with the interaction between the 'Two Worlds' of spirit and flesh. It deploys Foster's formidable erudition to this end, quoting from a dizzying aray of religious texts from a host of different traditons. The many stories it contains anatomise, in a comical and sometimes brutal fashion, the ways in which sexual desire and religious belief inform and distort each other...Attempt to characterise Foster's writing and eventually one will run out of adjectives. There is simply no one remotely like him in contemporary Australian fiction. He is so far ahead of anyone else that t's not funny. Except that it is funny -- very, very funny."

Short notice

Anna Hedigan on ABC Radio National's "The Book Show": "Transformation is the point to which everything returns in Sons of the Rumour -- the great work of finding meaning in life and the inner purity required to achieve it. I wished for a bit less testosterone and a more discerning rigour in the philosophical inquiry, but Foster rarely disappoints with his ambitious and unique style."


Paul Sheehan in "The Age".


You can read an extract from the novel on the publisher's page [PDF file].

1 Comment

I've almost finished this, Perry, and despite being initially intimidated by the publisher's book group guide, I really like it. I wouldn't want to have to choose between it and The Bath Fugues if I were a judge. (See I'm surprised there are so few reviews about Sons of the Rumour on the web, but mine should be online by the weekend.
PS The WordPress search box on my blog is unreliable. It doesn't even find my post about The Slap which is my most popular post ever with 1,519 hits. It's better to use the drop-down categories box to find authors or titles by initial.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on March 22, 2010 1:03 PM.

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