Author(s): Richard Flanagan
The Living Sea of Waking Dreams is an ember storm of a novel. This is Booker Prize-winning novelist Richard Flanagan at his most moving-and astonishing-best.In a world of perennial fire and growing extinctions, Anna's aged mother is dying-if her three children would just allow it. Condemned by their pity to living she increasingly escapes through her hospital window into visions of horror and delight.When Anna's finger vanishes and a few months later her knee disappears, Anna too feels the pull of the window. She begins to see that all around her others are similarly vanishing, but no one else notices. All Anna can do is keep her mother alive. But the window keeps opening wider, taking Anna and the reader ever deeper into a strangely beautiful story about hope and love and orange-bellied parrots.
Set in the near future, this novel has many layers embedded within the central story of a dying mother. Her children become determined to prolong her life and we are confronted with the ethical dilemmas that unfold during the final phase of Francie's life. Flanagan poses the possibility that we've forgotten how to live and perhaps this is why dying does not sit comfortably with us. Within the background, ecological systems are collapsing, bushfires have become constant and unrelenting. All that is beautiful is essentially disappearing before our eyes. There's a lovely metaphor here with vanishing body parts that lends a magical realism to the story. I loved this book, very timely and intriguing.