Book Of The Week, 13th June 2021

Richard Flanagan: The living sea of waking dreams, HB, £16.99.

Chatto & Windus, 2021.

The Australian Booker winner has described his eighth novel as “a rising scream”. The Living Sea of Waking Dreams combines moral righteousness, wounded grief, and the fury of someone who still reads the news. And smouldering underneath it all is the red memory of the summer’s reign of fire in Australia 2019.

The story begins when 87-year-old Francie is admitted to a Hobart hospital with a brain bleed. Her three children gather around her bedside: very successful architect Anna, wealth manager Terzo with an iron-clad sense of certainty; and failed artist Tommy, the sibling punching bag.

The novel follows Anna and her fight against her mother’s illness, watching her getting worse and worse. Anna cannot let go and insists on any therapy to stop the decline, in the way only those with power and money can. While her mother is vanishing so is the world around her, and finally she finds herself in the very same situation.

It’s an emphatic, wrenching read. This is a moving and astonishing story about family, love and hope set against global catastrophe and climate crisis. Written with Flanagan’s characteristic mix of humanism and emotional insight, you will find yourself going through all kind of emotions and might finish the book with mixed feelings. Or you simply love it!