GILGAMESH

Joan London, Author . Grove $23 (272p) ISBN 978-0-8021-1741-0

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GILGAMESHJoan London. Grove, $23 (272p) ISBN 0-8021-1741-4

This novel by Australian London was a finalist for several major prizes in her native land, and it's easy to see why. Its story—of a 17-year-old girl living in a remote corner of the country who bears a child by a briefly visiting Armenian and then follows him to his native land, in the Soviet Union on the brink of WWII—is riveting in its strangeness and immediacy, evoking with stark power a world almost inconceivably isolated and remote. Right from the start, when Frank, a veteran of WWI, brings his nurse and inamorata Ada with him to live on his farm in southwestern Australia, we are in a vividly realized and elemental landscape. And when their daughter Edith is seduced by the strange Aram (the driver for her mother's British friend), gives birth to baby Jim and a few months later sets off to seek the boy's elusive father in his remote country, one has entered the realm of the legendary and epic journey conjured by the book's title. The chapters covering Edith's sojourn in Soviet Armenia, threatened by both Germans and Russians, are unforgettable, brought to life in myriad brilliant details. Only when Edith returns to Australia after the war and gradually picks up the threads of her old life does the story begin to lose its grip. London's stark prose and command of a wonderfully maintained brooding atmosphere, however, make this an adventure to remember. (Apr.)

Forecast:London is the author of two story collections, but this novel marks her U.S. debut. It can be confidently handsold to admirers of Tim Winton and Kate Grenville.

Reviewed on: 01/27/2003
Release date: 04/01/2003
Genre: Fiction
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