Review Blog

Jul 28 2010

Ransom by David Malouf

cover image

Vision Australia, 2009. Audio book. Read by Ron Haddrick. ISBN 978186484826142. Random House, 2009.
David Malouf's novel, Ransom retells part of Homer's Iliad, the epic poem which recounts the story of the Greek hero Achilles and the siege of Troy. Far from simply retelling this classic story, Malouf focuses on one small part, at the end, where Priam, the elderly King of Troy goes to Achilles to try and ransom the body of his son Hector. Malouf elaborates in his own lyrical language, each detail and justification; Achilles sent mad by grief and guilt; Priam needing to take some action, rediscovering the part of him that is just a man and father. The focus is close and on those small interactions which bring a story to life, like the sharing of the daughter-in-law's pancakes and the touching relationship between the carter and his intelligent little mule. There is the feeling of a war that has gone on too long and of lives nearing their end. Nothing will be left but stories to be told and elaborated on, long after all are dead.
Malouf's interest in storytelling makes this audio book version an appropriate way to engage with the novel. Ron Haddrick's eloquent reading whisks us through the Iliad story and brings the wholly original character detail of Priam and Somax, the muleteer, vividly to life. At approximately 5 hours listening this Vision Australia audio book (presumably unabridged, not stated), is an accessible way to experience Malouf's writing and to become immersed in the story. My immediate response when finished was to put in the first CD to go back and pick up what I'd missed; a further reading of the prose would now reveal the structure and nuts and bolts that this remarkable writer has used to construct this modern classic.
Sue Speck

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