Books in Brief: The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Idiopathy and Feeding the Ghosts

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The Sound of One Hand Clapping

The Sound of One Hand Clapping by Richard Flanagan

Five words from the blurb: immigrants, Tasmania, tragedy, drunken, father

I loved Gould’s Book of Fish (which I read pre-blogging), so was excited about trying another of Flanagan’s books. Unfortunately The Sound of One Hand Clapping didn’t have the same impact on me. I found the story fragmented and the wonderfully atmospheric descriptions weren’t enough to hold my attention. There were some good observations about migrants and difficult relationships, but I’m afraid I didn’t become emotionally invested in any of the characters.



Idiopathy by Sam Byers

Five words from the blurb: love, girlfriend, toxic, cattle, relationships

This book contained some great one liners, but didn’t really work as a whole. The structure of the novel wasn’t quite right and most of the time I felt as though the plot had been forced to fit around the jokes. I think it might be appreciated more by men, especially those who enjoy lighter reads.

Feeding the Ghosts

Feeding the Ghosts by Fred D’Aguiar

Five words from the blurb: slave, ship, illness, survives, responsibility

Feeding the Ghosts is a short, but gripping book about life aboard a slave ship. It had some fantastic scenes, but contained nothing particularly new or memorable. The descriptions were wonderfully vivid (which could make them too disturbing for some) but I’m afraid the plot was too simple for me.


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  1. David says:

    I really don’t remember ‘Feeding the Ghosts’ all that well (not surprising as I read it in 1997) but whilst I liked it well enough to pick up a couple of D’Aguiar’s other novels I do remember at the time vastly preferring Barry Unsworth’s ‘Sacred Hunger’ which I’d just read.

    I’ve only read one of Richard Flanagan’s books – ‘The Narrow Road to the Deep North’ (due out here later this year) – and I thought it was magnificent and an emotionally harrowing read so I’m surprised to see that this one didn’t connect with you on that level. Perhaps I’ll make ‘Gould’s Book of Fish’ the next Flanagan I read instead!

    ‘Idiopathy’ didn’t appeal to me when it came out last year, but with a couple of award listings and the fact that The Works had the hardback for £1.99, I picked a copy up and will try and get to it soon – I’ll bear in mind it is a light read and slip it in between some heavier books.

    1. David says:

      PS: Speaking of books that might be “appreciated more by men”, I’m really looking forward to seeing what you make of DW Wilson’s hyper-masculine ‘Ballistics”. My opinion of it was slightly coloured by having read (and loved) his linked story collection “Once You Break a Knuckle” first – his writing style in ‘Ballistics’ seemed almost like self-parody and I almost wish I’d come to them the other way round.

    2. Jackie says:

      David, ‘Sacred Hunger’ is a book I’ve been meaning to try for a while. I got as far as buying a copy, but must try to get to it soon as I think I’ll love it.

      When reading reviews I noted that several other people had similar problems with ‘One Hand Clapping’. I have a copy of ‘Narrow Road’ here and hope to read it in the next month for Kim’s Australian book month. Hopefully I’ll enjoy it as much as you did.

      I think you might enjoy ‘Idiopathy’ for the humor and a few of the more impressive passages – just don’t expect the plot to be very impressive! Hopefully I’ll have better luck with ‘Ballistics’, but for some reason my hopes aren’t that high at the moment.

  2. Sandy says:

    I haven’t heard of these, but Feeding the Ghosts interests me. BTW, I really do still appreciate those five words from the blurb. It is a great top-level way to let us know the general topic of the book.

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, Glad you like the five words – it helps me to remember books too!


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