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Every city, town and village has its memorial to war. Nowhere are these more eloquent than in Australia, generations of whose young men have enlisted to fight other people's battles - from Gallipoli and the Somme to Malaya and Vietnam. In THE GREAT WORLD, his finest novel yet, David Malouf gives a voice to that experience. But THE GREAT WORLD is more than a novel of war. Ranging over seventy years of Australian life, from Sydney's teeming King's Cross to the tranquil backwaters of the Hawkesbury River, it is a remarkable novel of self-knowledge and lost innocence, of survival and witness.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780099273868
ISBN-10: 0099273861
Format: Paperback
(200mm x 130mm x 21mm)
Pages: 336
Imprint: Vintage
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 20-May-1999
Country of Publication: United Kingdom


UK Kirkus Review » On the surface, this is a novel about war but really it is more about the after-effects of war. It follows a man called Digger from his home near a desolate crossing in Australia to fighting in the Far East, and back again to Sydney, after being a prisoner of the Japanese. Relationships forged in the prison camp influence life afterwards to such an extent that the war is seen to dominate the entire life not just of Digger, and of Vic, his 'friend', but of all the family back home. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » Not your typical war novel - there are no combat scenes, and the war ends between chapters halfway through - Australian author Malouf's first US publication is a sweepingly ambitious tale of 70 years in the lives of two men knitted roughly together by their POW experiences under the Japanese in Malaya. Malouf begins in the present with Digger Keen, a former flyweight boxer living with his idiot sister Jenny, then goes back to prewar days for the boyhood of aggressive Vic Curran, orphaned by a brawl that claimed his hard-drinking father and adopted by the genteel Warrenders. Digger and Vic strike up a friendship as POWs after the Japanese casually overrun Malaya; but then when Mac, a fellow prisoner, is killed in a fight between Mac and one of his Japanese guards, Vic feels himself slip in another life - a life he never should have lived, marked on his return home by his loss of Lucille Warrender to a Yank and his marriage to her sister Ellie, his futile affairs, his lonely years wheeling and dealing in shaky financial deals as Digger, returned to the same Australian town, begins a 20-year involvement with Mac's sister-in-law Iris (whom he'd first seen in a vision in Malaya) and a profoundly uneasy friendship with Vic. Generations pass, bringing to new prominence figures like Warrender grandsons Greg and Alex (now Vic's business manager) in sharply etched scenes showing Digger's and Vic's lives as mere postludes to their wartime disillusionment. But the real movement here is the passage of years, whose cycles Malouf evokes with a kind of dreary brilliance; it's hard to think of a novel that so briefly and authoritatively captures such a span of time. Though sometimes trapped by its characters' own dullness, this is a warmly perceptive story, full of slanted observations, about the costs of war on that other great world. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - David Malouf

David Malouf is the author Dream Stuff ('These stories are pearls,' Spectator) and of acclaimed novels including The Great World (winner of the Commonwealth Writers' Prize) and Remembering Babylon (shortlisted for the Booker Prize and winner of the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award).

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