Ransom--David Malouf

Ransom is gorgeous.  From first carefully and lovingly crafted sentence to last.  So beautiful at moments that it made me want to cry, and even in the recollection of it and writing this. . . beauty, loveliness, and heart-depth.

from Ransom
David Malouf

The sea has many voices. The voice this man is listening for is the voice of his mother. He lifts his head, turns his face to the chill air that moves in across the gulf, and tastes it sharp salt on his lip. The sea surface bellies and glistens, a lustrous silver-blue--a membrane stretched to a fine transparency where once, for nine changes of the moon, he had hung curled in a dream of pre-existence and was rocked and comforted. He hunkers down now on the shelving pebbles at its edge, bunches his cloak between his thighs. Chin down, shoulders hunched, attentive.

The story is simple--after Achilles' ungodly rage and the death of Hector, after ten days of dragging the hero's body around the city of Troy, after the desecration of the body, King Priam of Troy resolves to leave his city and go to beg the body of his son from Achilles.

As the subject matter reveals, the book is brooding, melancholy, meditative.  It is still and quiet and lovely, at times achingly so.  There are images that will remain with me for a long time--a King dipping his feet for the first time in a stream, and the fingerling fish gathering around them.

Ransom is a short book, an exquisitely carved book, a book of deep and harrowing emotion and a reminder of what is important in life.  I suspect that this is one of those books that will speak more to age than to youth--more to those who have had children and who know what it would feel like to make Priam's journey.  It is a book that longs to be unpacked and reread and unpacked again.  Its beauties are sturdy beauties, like the favored one of the team of two Donkeys that transport the tribute and the body.

The book serves to remind us that the Greeks of the Iliad are not all noble, nor are their actions all laudable.  Indeed, they are much like each one of us.

And again, I must say it--Gorgeous.

Highly Recommended-- *****


  1. Yes, I totally agree. As a youth, it is sometimes difficult to relate to the grief of Priam and his courage to overcome being always the "ceremonial figurehead", and a "husk dazzling in its own eminence"....

    The one thing I really appreciate from the novel is its beautiful language. It makes me see the beauty in the otherwise ordinary. :D

  2. It's a book very much about individuals and the choices they make to achieve what they are meant to achieve. It is these choices, which in Homer seem more like fate (and the influence of all those annoying gods), that Malouf offers us the modern and human side to these stories.

  3. I read it essentially in one "sitting," on long flights from San Francisco to Europe. Read it and enjoy. It's a winner and a clear 5 on Amazon's rating scale.


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