Review

Death of a River Guide: A Novel

by Richard Flanagan



A river guide makes a desperate choice: In order to save the life
of one of his passengers, he must sacrifice his own. Trapped under
the rapids, he begins a new journey. He floats down a new river,
one in which the most magical things occur, and he is thrown back
farther and farther into his own history --- his genealogy and the
characters in it coming to life in his own mind. DEATH OF A RIVER
GUIDE by Richard Flanagan tries to make a case for the
interrelationship that exists among all people: If this Tasmanian
has ties to such a collection of men and women, then so do we
all.

Aljaz Cosini is a normal man with many regrets and he revisits many
of them during his travail. Couta Ho, the woman he loved, is a
major player in this river trip he takes in his own head. His Aunt
Ellie is also quite a character, and as characters go, Flanagan has
some real control and feeling for the females in Aljaz's past and
present. However, the language in general is so flowery that it is
difficult to maintain a grip on the emotional intensity that the
characters are supposed to be feeling.

Describing an old woman's face as "a dried-up apricot" is mundane,
a student's way of describing a face that has seen many of the less
opportune sides of life. There is this sort of language throughout
the book and it feels amateurish, particularly when reaching for
the heights of the magic realism that Aljaz is experiencing. DEATH
OF A RIVER GUIDE has arms too short to box with the power and
tenacity with which its protagonist struggles in his situation. The
story is good, but the way it is told lacks the fervor a reader
would expect from something as dire as a life or death tale.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on January 21, 2011

Death of a River Guide: A Novel
by Richard Flanagan

  • Publication Date: March 12, 2002
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press
  • ISBN-10: 0802138632
  • ISBN-13: 9780802138637