The Living Sea of Waking Dreams is the second book I read by Richard Flanagan. I first heard of Richard Flanagan back in 2017, before going on a trip to Australia. In preparation for that holiday I wanted to read books by Australian authors, and The Narrow Road to the Deep North (my review) was one of them.
The Living Sea of Waking Dreams in a nutshell
The book tells the story of Anna and her two brothers, middle-aged adults living in Australia and Tasmania. They are taken out of the daily routine when their mother, aged 87, gets very ill and she is caught between her body’s desire to die and her children’s determination that she lives.
But there is also a higher level sickness, situated in the background of the story – the sickness of Earth. Land burning, species of animals disappearing. The story takes place during the massive Australian bushfires from 2019-2020.
I have mixed feelings about this book. While I cannot say I loved it, I am glad I read it. It is a moving story, not easy to read. The theme of the book is saddening – sickness of family members and of Earth. We read about the everyday family tragedy, but also about the global tragedy that we are witnessing in real life.
Flanagan manages to transmit powerful emotions (anger, grief) – this story had an impact on me while reading the it. The narrative style, at times similar to streams of consciousness, contributed to a very direct and powerful transmission of the emotions. It is definitely not a book for fans of action-oriented stories.
Our house is on fire
The story reminded me so many times of the messages transmitted by Greta Thunberg, the well-known young climate activist. “Our house is on fire” – yes, Australia was literally on fire during the summer of 2019-2020.
“If humans were changing the world’s climate [..] we would not be talking about anything else. But no one talked about it” – there is a very interesting metaphor in the book exactly for this point. The world is vanishing, but nobody talks about the elephant in the room.
The Living Sea of Waking Dreams is about grief, anger, and a vanishing world. A slow but sure collapse. It is one of the most anchored to reality fiction books I read in a while, and also one of the most touching and surreal stories.
Have you read any books by Richard Flanagan? I’d love to hear your thoughts about them!
‘Till next time … happy reading!
PS: I received a digital copy of this book in January 2021 at my request, via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. My review expresses my own thoughts about the story and it is not influenced in any way by the publisher or the author. The book was published on 14th of January 2021.