This was going to be a tirade about a crime fiction book that I read, y’know the sort, lots of machismo and guns…I finished it only because I wanted to know what happened. But, here in Oz we don’t much care for, or about guns; so reading about a whole lot of specs about different weapons and how many people they can kill, well…yawn!
So instead of boring you with that book review, I thought I would tell you about my thoughts on a real cracker, “Gilgamesh” by Joan London. It was her first book written a few years ago, set in the South West of Western Australia. The title comes from the epic of Gilgamesh, a poem which has a profound effect on at least two of the main characters.
It starts in post WW1 London with two characters who seem ill-suited but get together anyway, they move to Western Australia to take up the offer of the Group Settlement Scheme (more info here).
They have two daughters and live in poverty, isolated from the community and unsuccessful at farming, barely scratching a living. Time moves on and after “he” dies two young men (one a relative) visit them. The younger daughter, Edith enjoys their company and is intrigued by their tales of the world past her isolated patch, after they leave she discovers she is pregnant and the story really starts from here. It is on the cusp of WW2 and Edith decides to find the father of her child, an Armenian (and that is almost all she knows). Reading this, it sounds ridiculous that this novel would be believable; but there it is. So much of what happens to Edith and her son Jim is almost serendipitous, but it all comes out at the end, how these events melded together into a plausible scenario where coincidence played almost no part at all.
I couldn’t put the book down, there was always a need to find out what happens next, as a lot of the events seemed so fantastic. It took me two days to read this and I was sorry when it finished, there were so many questions and it begs for a sequel (but it is unlikely to get one). If you are curious about the Australia that isn’t found in Sydney, Melbourne or the Gold Coast, this book throws out little tidbits which may whet your appetite for discovery, or totally put you off ever visiting.
Whatever your thoughts, I enjoyed Gilgamesh and encourage you to have a look at it for yourselves.
If you want a more comprehensive review read the transcript of this discussion it covers aspects of the book quite well and is entertaining to boot!