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4.3 out of 5 stars26
4.3 out of 5 stars
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Bojan Buloh isn't a cheery bloke. A "reffo wog" [immigrant from Southern Europe] in Tasmania, he lives a disenchanted life. His taxing job is meaningless, his quarters squalid, his friends and co-workers equally hopeless. His wife, Maria, has disappeared into a blizzard, leaving him with three-year-old Sonja.
Bojan's grief at the loss of Maria is compounded by memories of his early years. As a young Yugoslav partisan messenger, he witnessed war in all its viciousness. These aren't the fond childhood recollections of most of us. In Tasmania, he confronts the realities of immigrant life - exploitation, scornful neighbours, reduced status and few opportunities. A lesser man might cave in under such pressures, but Bojan is a tough bloke. Being tough, however, makes him neither happy nor successful. He survives with the help of the bottle, all the while expressing his resentment at the vagaries of his life. Some of that resentment falls, as it must, on Sonja. She represents the missing Maria.
Maria Bull's fading into a snowy Tasmanian night triggered dark guilt in Sonja - which she carries through her life. Their shared grief doesn't bring Sonja and Bojan closer. His drinking and violence only compounds Song's sense of detachment. She withdraws, although the spark of affection for Bojan never quite expires. Fleeing to Sydney, Sonja tries to shed the past, living the present intensely. Her grief is little assuaged as she uses a succession of men to compensate for, in effect, the loss of both parents. The ember of regard for Bojan dims feelings she might hold for another man. Cruel, drunken, cynical as he is, Bojan remains the one solid aspect of her life. It is to this lodestone she returns at last, in an attempt to take charge of her life. If "it is written," she determines at last to do her own writing.
Reviewing Flanagan inevitably evokes the tired clichés - "powerful" or "intense." While both terms apply, neither sufficiently addresses the quality of Flanagan's writing. One phrase, rarely applied to today's writers is "clarity." Although the story of Sonja and Bojan Buloh is told through broken chronology, Flanagan is able to hold the reader's attention throughout the tale. Skipping from present to past in a narrative is too often a distraction, but Flanagan manages the feat with unusal precision. Given the depth of feeling presented, he deserves high praise for his accomplishment. His story disturbs, sometimes repels, the reader, but the tale is never false nor the events contrived. His writing contains no cliches, nor is it tired. Only the reviewer is guilty of those sins. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]
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Set in Tasmania, this novel is centred around Sonja Buloh and focusses on three periods of her life: as a very young child, living with both of her parents in a remote construction camp; as a slightly older child after her mother disappears; and as an adult who, full of questions about the past, returns to Tasmania.

Sonja Buloh remembers little about the night that her mother Maria walked out of their hut at the construction camp at Butlers Gorge in 1954. Maria never returned, leaving both Bojan and Soja bereft. For Sonja, it is both mystery and tragedy. For Bojan, it is a tragedy he is unable to move beyond. As a lone parent of a three year old daughter, with memories of wartime atrocities, recruited to Tasmania to do ‘the work of dam-building’, Bojan is unable to deal with the pain he feels other than by trying to anaesthetize it with alcohol.

‘There were horrors that Bojan kept within him without even a story to enclose them, that he kept shapeless in the hope of dissolving them.’

After a difficult childhood, Sonja eventually escapes to mainland Australia and is estranged from Bojan. But, 35 years later and pregnant, she returns to Tasmania, full of questions about herself and her past.

The novel takes the reader on a journey, through the past and present, of both Bojan and Sonja. For Sonja to make decisions about her future, she needs to try to explore the past. And this requires Bojan’s help. For both of them, this is a journey which involves both courage and pain. The novel moves between the present and the past, filling in the gaps in our knowledge of both Sonja and Bojan. Can Bojan move beyond the past? What does the future hold?

I found myself torn between wanting to read ahead, hoping that Sonja and Bojan could find happiness, and wanting to read slowly in order to appreciate just how well Richard Flanagan crafted this story. For me, while the novel was centred around Sonja, it was Bojan Buloh’s experiences in Tasmania as a migrant from Slovenia after World War II that held my attention. Tasmania, too, has a role to play. I found this a very moving story, and one which I want to reread.

‘They were drinking not to enjoy the present, but for the more urgent reason of wanting to forget the past and deny the future.’

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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on 26 June 2015
Book arrived in the time expected and as described condition (used). I wish I'd discovered Mr Flanagan a long time ago...but then I would have finished all his books a long time ago too. I bought this after reading his extraordinary book The Long Road To The Deep North. A book that is deeply ingrained in my it. I am only half way into The Sound Of One Hand Clapping and will very soon finish it. This book is written in the same remarkable way that lays bare raw memories, traumatic experience, cruel history, loneliness and deep deep anger, pain, bewilderment, discrimination and love but all without sentiment, weakness or attention seeking. How Mr Flanagan achieves this I just don't know but oh, how I wish that I could.
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on 11 April 1999
This novel is set in Tasmania, and is the story of Sonia Buloh, whose mother leaves her at the age of 3 years, never to return. The story tells of the lives of Sonia and her Slovenian parents, Maria and Bojan. Richard Flanagan writes so beautifully and so poetically, and this is a deeply moving, and therapeutic novel.
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on 26 March 2016
This was a very moving tale. Richard Flanagan has the ability to use the English Language to its fullest using words and phrases that you would not expect to be found together working very harmoniously The story coves different scenes -The Balkans during the Second World War-Tasmania in the mid 1950's-Australia and Tasmania in the 1990's..Richard Flanagan has the ability to transport back to these various scenarios effortlessly, and one can experience the cold, the fear, the hopelessness, and the sheer frustration of life. The characterisation within the novel are very strong, and you come to understand their frustrations and philosophy on life both past and present. A Really good read, though it is an all embracing experience, one cannot play at reading this it requires a certain amount of effort, but the effort is well worth it.
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on 30 May 2016
Has to be one of the most demanding, raw, and heart-wrenching books I have ever read. Sometimes I had to put the book down for a day or two before picking it up again so remorseless and powerful the tale and its telling. Yet too one of the most beautiful, sensitive, poignant and well observed works I've ever had the privilege to read. The writing and scope are extraordinary.Few writers in my experience manage to bridge the range of human experience and emotion as Flanagan does. Highly recommended.
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on 30 March 2010
A blizzard howls, but a mother walks into the snow abandoning her daughter to her drunken and often abusive father. The child shuttles between father and temporary minders in 1950's Tasmania. A bleak chidhood is punctuated with glimpses of happiness, until she is old enough to escape to Sydney. Thirty years later she returns with the hope of a new beginning.
The switches between the 50/60s and the 90s can be confusing, but the narrative is compelling, and the imagery vivid.The characters are mostly a sad lot, not surprisingly given their traumatic past in WWII Europe, but they are convincingly drawn. This reader was left wondering whether the survivors would eventually find some sort of happiness. 4 stars.
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on 26 August 2015
This for me was the most moving read I have had in my memory? It is beautifully crafted and brutally honest about a period in Tasmania's past I knew nothing of. The relationship between the father and daughter stay in the mind.
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on 29 September 1999
This is a story of a dysfunctional family, written with snippets of the past and present, so you can see how and where the family went wrong and how they try to put it back together. At times I despised the characters, but through the characterisation l was aware of their motives and could sympathise, if not empathise. Very moving, and fast paced l finished the book in a couple of days. I found Richard's writing style quite like Alice Hoffman's.
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on 5 August 2015
Beautifully written and very moving account of the difficulties faced by the immigrant population in Tasmania. Flanagans psychological insight is amazing.
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