The Living Sea of Waking Dreams by Richard Flanagan [6/10]

Richard Flanagan writes with rare lyricism and power, and “The Living Sea of Waking Dreams,” a shift in direction back towards his early semi magical realism, flows with standout scenes and paragraphs. Grand themes of loss and disappearance and death are tackled. Three siblings assemble around a dying old woman, bickering over whether to keep her alive or not, and at the same time the daughter notices her limbs are slowly vanishing, all amidst a near-future world of raging fires. As all three developments accelerate, Flanagan riffs and ponders about the modern world of people within the ancient world of nature. I have to say I enjoyed the read chiefly for the power of the prose, but the characters, with the notable exception of the humbler of the two sons, establish themselves as ciphers for the ideas and language, and none of them engaged me. All in all, The Living Sea of Waking Dreams is overburdened by its grand ideas and expressions, but remains an intriguing book within Flanagan’s impressive bibliography.

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