Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Gilgamesh by Joan London (Jill)

By Joan London
Completed August 28, 2011

Joan London's debut novel is the story of Edith, a young Australian girl who lives in the bush with her mom and sister. Edith knows the realities of hard country living - her parents' farm never taking off after years of effort. When her cousin, Leopold, and his friend, Aram, arrive for a visit, it's a breath of fresh air. Edith and her family are charmed by the young men's stories and antics, and slowly, Edith falls in love with Aram.

After the men leave, Edith begins to plot her own departure, a worldwide journey to Aram's homeland of Armenia. However, Edith didn't realize that Europe was about to burst with World War II, and as she draws closer to her destination, Edith becomes an unwilling pawn in a political chess match.

The fable Gilgamesh is central to this story, and it fits well with the travels of many characters. London does a wonderful job weaving in texts from the poem to help the reader connect the dots between the fable and the story. In fact, my favorite parts of the book are when Edith is traveling - first on a ship around Africa, then to London, Armenia and finally northern Africa. Each stop on Edith's journey gave the reader a snapshot of life during that time.

Gilgamesh is a quick read - very enthralling with fully developed characters and great plot twists. London's writing is subtle but powerful. Fans of the Orange Prize or literary fiction are sure to enjoy this fast-paced novel. ( )

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