#CBR7 Review #106: The Sound of One Hand Clapping by Richard Flanagan

I read Richard Flanagan’s most excellent Booker winner, The Narrow Road to the Deep North, last December, and I wanted to read more of his works. I have not read a lot of literature from ANZAC (that is, Australia-New Zealand Commonwealth), so I am interested in seeing what is out there. The Sound of One Hand Clapping takes place in Tasmania and features themes of immigration and identity, so I was curious to see how it compared to other works.

The Sound of One Hand Clapping opens in the 1950s when Maria Buloh walks out of her house in the dead of winter, leaving behind her tiny daughter and husband. The narrative then switches between the voices of her husband Bojan and their daughter Sonja in the 1950s and 1960s and 1989, when the present moment takes place. Bojan becomes an alcoholic and Sonja torn between the loss of her mother and the destructive tendencies of her father. In 1989, she returns to Tasmania, 22 years later after running away. There, she confronts her ghosts of the past and learns to reconcile her present and future.

I enjoyed the fast pace of the novel, though I felt that the middle sagged a bit, pace-wise. I think Flanagan is a genuinely talented writer, and you can sense the promise of his latest work simmering below the surface. While The Sound of One Hand Clapping is not my favorite novel, I did like reading it. I would check out other works by Flanagan, too. Though I think that The Narrow Road to the Deep North is going to be hard to top.

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