Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Book Review: Ransom by David Malouf

Ransom by David Malouf
Paperback 224 pages
First published in 2010
Australian Literature

From the walls of Troy, King Priam watches the body of his son, Hector, being dragged behind Achilles' chariot in the Greek camp. Maddened by grief at the death of his friend, Patroclus, Achilles refuses to give up Hector's body, but King Priam is convinced there must be a way of reclaiming the body - of pitting compromise against heroics, new ways against old, and of forcing the hand of fate. Dressed simply and in a cart pulled by a mule, he sets off to speak to Achilles man to man and as a father

My Review…

This book was not off to a good start with me. It had two things against it before I even read the first word. Firstly, it has a donkey on the cover. A donkey! What riveting story can possibly come from a donkey?! Well now that I think about it, many many stories. The second thing against it was that this book was a required read for school. Now you all know what it’s like to be forced to read something, there’s always that hint of: ‘I am being forced to read this, so therefore I will hate every second!’ What only me?

And then I started reading, and I realised it was a retelling of the last few books of Homers ‘The Iliad’. How dare someone try to improve on Homer! Who do you think you are! I mean, I love the Iliad, and the Odyssey. I love Homer, and all things Greek Mythology. So I was a tiny bit upset, at having to read what seemed like an unnecessary book.

But I was wrong.

This book was so easy to read, I finished it in less than 24 hours. The story flowed well, and it kept me interested, even if it was something I’d heard before. The focus of this book was on Achilles after his half-brother Patroclus dies. And on Priam, after his son Hector dies. They have both gone through a traumatic event, and that trauma and the emotion it brings, is explored in the book. The characters are much more modern, then they are in the Iliad, and their choices and thoughts are more deeply explained.

However on that same note, there is not much that happens. The gods are pushed out of the story, to where we only see glimpses and pieces of them. This I was kind of upset about, because let’s be honest. The gods and their dysfunctional ways are one of the best parts of myth. But I understood the reason they were not very much present. It was so the focus could be on the characters, and so that a god couldn’t swoop down and fix things. The characters in this version of the story had to make their own decisions.

The story was beautifully written, and was much tamer, compared to Homer. It was also focused more on the emotional decisions, and moments. Rather than battles, and fantastical scenes.

This book succeeded in getting past my first impression of it. It was easy to read. But as far as it did go. It was still always going to live in the shadows, of the Great Master, Homer.

I give this book 4 out of 5.

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