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Homesickness (Panther) [Paperback]

Murray Bail

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Book Description

21 Oct 1999 Panther
Thirteen Australian package tourists set off around the world on the holiday of a lifetime. But as they trawl from country to country, through cities and round ever more obscure museums they find nothing as they expect it, least of all themselves. Homesickness is an enchanting novel: a wry, witty look at the ways people interact, a catalogue of comic digressions and tantalising information in which the world becomes a museum with no exhibit more bizarre than human nature itself.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 421 pages
  • Publisher: Harvill Press; New edition edition (21 Oct 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1860466834
  • ISBN-13: 978-1860466830
  • Product Dimensions: 19.2 x 12.8 x 2.6 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,331,802 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description

About the Author

Murray Bail was born in Adelaide in 1941, and now lives in Sydney. He is the author of three novels and a book of short stories, The Drover's Wife and Other Stories. Homesickness, his first novel, won the National Book Award for Australian Literature and the Melbourne Age Book of the Year Award. His subsequent novel, Holden's Performance, won the Vance Palmer Prize for Fiction. Eucalyptus, which was published by Harvill in 1998, was the winner of the 1999 Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Miles Franklin Literary Award.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.4 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truth was never this strange 1 May 2000
By Eric J. Matluck - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
There are few literary movements as appealing to me as surrealism. Kafka, of course, was quite the master, and others have tried (mostly unsuccessfully) to follow his example. Then along comes Murray Bail, with this linguistically dazzlingly novel, who, in his own way, goes Kafka one better. Where Kafka described the bizarre with a serene, well-modulated prose, Bail describes the bizarre in a strangely halting, off-kilter syntax that so effectively puts us in the same plane as the strangeness he describes that it begins to take on a logic of its own.
Thus, when our group of 13 world travelers find themselves in New York, at a hotel that's in the process of being demolished, we barely blink at the description of the desk clerks wearing hard hats or the convention of rock climbers who are already making their way through the rubble. We don't blink, but we do smile.
And what can one say about any novel that features Roy G. Biv, with his "orange hair" and "blue nose" (complementary colors!) as a character who works at a cartographers in London? Or is his establishment merely an repository of words, nonce and otherwise?
Yet for all of the generous comedy that Bail provides, there is a creeping sense of darkness; not so much that nothing is what it seems (though it certainly is not!) but that the lives of the characters themselves, so "usual," so "settled," also seem so unbearably empty.
Make no mistake about it, this is not a "comic" novel. It's dark, haunting and, more often than not, devastatingly insightful. Murray Bail has created a masterpiece of the surreal. Anyone who warms to the profound disturbances of George Tooker or the often suffocating loneliness of Edward Hopper (one really must rely on painters as one's closest point of reference) will respond to this book.
And if it's any indication of my response, I've never reviewed a book for Amazon before. What a place to start!
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The voice of Orstraliah 13 July 2004
By Steven Reynolds - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The typical, magical Murray Bail moment is this: a humorous, strange, near-slapstick incident is narrated in a contrastingly high scientific-philosophical language, and slyly worked into a powerful metaphor for something far more serious and intellectually engaging than you would ever have thought possible, let alone expected. He does it repeatedly in his short stories (see his marvellous collection, 'The Drover's Wife and Other Stories', the title one being a deserved OzLit classic), and this novel is chock full of them. They range from the surreal and savagely political - such as the Museum of Handicrafts, the 'pygmy collection', and the 'verification' of Lenin's corpse - right down to the simplest of incidents, like a tourist cart-wheeling down some steps, or a freak accident involving the American flag. As his thirteen ill-matched Australians tour through Africa, England, Ecuador, America and Russia, Bail treats the reader to a series of elaborately crafted metaphorical sequences illuminating his major theme, which seems to be 'museum culture' (for want of a better term), i.e. the contingency of reality in a postmodern world, and the difficulty post-colonial peoples such as Australians encounter in defining themselves and their nation within it. Time after time, Bail captures so beautifully the multivalence of the ordinary - that sense that the everyday is both absurd and profound, and in equal measure. The combination of high voice and low comedy I mentioned is perfect for this kind of story. It's a wonderfully destabilizing technique - the reader is never quite sure where Bail 'is coming from', as our American friends might say. It functions, too, as the approximate literary equivalent of that laconic deadpan irony we tend to associate with the typical Australian voice (quite wrongly associate, of course - which, for Bail, may well be part of the joke). I'd hesitate to say this is a novel only Australians could enjoy, because the appeal of Bail's gently surreal comedy is hopefully universal. But there are some moments, some characters, some finely observed turns of phrase, that only Australians will appreciate fully.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Around the world in a daze 18 Oct 2000
By choiceweb0pen0 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Homesickness is the second novel I've read by Bail. It reads well though not as well as 'Eucalyptus'. From my own limited experience in traveling, 'Homesickness' does an excellent job of capturing the stereotypical tourist comparing every country to their own, usually in a less than flattering manner, sending home postcards with generic statements, and trying to go native. The museums the characters of the novel visit are strange, bordering on plain weird. From the (literal) Institution of Marriage to a corrugated metal museum, Bail leads us through each one with subtle humor. His sketch of each destination is done well, especially New York City and Russia. While this is an interesting novel, though the average reader might get lost by references to various aspects of Australia culture, I liked his more recent novel, 'Eucalyptus'. I think readers who travel a lot will find much of this novel amusing and dead on. A few of the sentence structures are strange such as missing commas or the syntax in unusual order that I had to reread a second time to understand. Just before Bail dumps the Australian tourists on their last trip to Russia, he provides his own experiences in Russia, which seemed like he wanted to include this extra material for the heck of it.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fresh 9 Jan 2001
By Robertomelbourne - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
A novel, and fresh approach to explaining the wants, wishes, desires, expectations and behaviour of fictional AUstralian tourists in various parts of the world. Its as much about travel, as the human condition. A wonderful book, and explains alot about the tourist mentality.
4.0 out of 5 stars Different style of writing. Took some re-reading paragraphs to understand. Good humor. Enjoyed the bookl. 14 Jun 2014
By Donald R. McCurdy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Difficult to read this style of writing. Had to re-read paragraphs. On the whole I enjoyed it. Will recommend it.
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