I’m reading a novel called The Sound of One Hand Clapping, by Richard Flanagan. I thought I had read something by him before and liked it, which is why my parents gave me this book for my birthday. In fact, they gave me this book and two more, all by Richard Flanagan.
So you can imagine my dismay, when I started The Sound of One Hand Clapping and discovered… that I didn’t like it. The language was too pompous, too poetic, the tenses were all over the place and nothing made sense. Had I really liked something by this guy before? It seemed impossible, but I kept reading, trying to give him the benefit of the doubt, following along as he used the landscape and climate of Tasmania as metaphors for inexplicable human experience, as he skipped from 1990 to 1954 and back again, and as he…
hit me in the gut.
Today I was reading over lunch, a scene where the main protagonist, just a kid, visits her friend’s house. The house is chaos and the mum is making lunch for the kids and trying to control them but quickly losing her grip on it all, and suddenly a treasured platter falls and breaks and the house breaks with it. In a matter of seconds, sentences, mum and kids were all sobbing and I along with them.
So… yeah. Consider this a recommendation. The language is weirdly pompous and poetic (the NYT agrees), he really does do a lot of “telling rather than showing” (oh that literary sin!), but – as long as you don’t mind tears in your tea – you are in safe hands.