David Malouf,
(Pantheon, 2009)

There is something of a dream that unfolds in the pages of David Malouf's Ransom, not so much in the sense of it being unreal, but more so in the sense of being surreal. There is a certain beauty in the words, and at times they become meditative. The use of language alone would make this book worth reading, but that is not all you get.

You get a king who steps out of his role as a king to do something new while acting as a father. Then there is the carter who guides him, with unexpected help along the way. Then there is the slain son, Hector, and the hero that slew him and is holding Hector's corpse hostage. The destination of their journey into the unknown. All of this taking place with the siege of Troy waiting in the background.

And it is this most improbable journey by King Priam -- to ransom his son's body from Achilles, the man who slew him in battle and who daily drags the body of Hector around the walls of Troy -- that further adds to the feel of the book. Yet there are no monsters here, just men driven by compulsions that they can't always name to do the things they must do. There is also the journey on the way there, and that journey is in its own way as important as the points where Priam and Achilles begin, and where they end up after their paths cross.

Ransom is a very well-written book and both the way language is used and the story that is told in its pages will keep you engaged until the story's end. It may even quietly stay with you long after you put it down.

review by
Paul de Bruijn

15 May 2010

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