Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Review: Ransom by David Malouf

David Malouf

Way-back-when, I read The Lost Books of the Odyssey which managed to re-ignite by obsession with the Trojan War/The Iliad/The Odyssey. When I was doing some google-ing around the book I stumbled across this, Ransom by David Malouf. I studied one of Malouf's novels at uni and actually had fond memories of it (unusually) so I thought, awesome, a book by a decent author all about Troy, WIN. Plus there is a donkey on the cover (sorry it's hidden, it is a cutie). I did think Ransom might languish lost and forgotten on my wishlist until I found myself a copy in The Strand bookshop in NYC (serendipity, much?). Clearly I very quickly snapped it up, did a slight jig around the store and sashayed to the till to pay for my brilliant find. And then, after all that excitement, I read it. WOW, just WOW. Dave, you've done it again. The characters! The writing (it's a novel that truly deserves the oft-overused description 'lyrical')! The Trojan nerdiness! This book just has it all.

Malouf focuses on the story of Priam going into the Greek camp to ransom his son Hector's body from Achilles. It is a short, meandering novel that depicts Priam's decision making process, the journey to the camp with Somax the driver, and Achilles's unexpected reaction. The familiar Troy stuff is all there but Malouf goes deeper into Priam's head and explores the relationship between father and (dead) son.

The relationship between Priam and Somax, the carter employed to drive him into the Greek camp, is poignant to the point of sadness. The whole novel is formed around father/son relationships and Somax without doubt becomes a father figure for Priam. Even though Priam is king and Somax is a poor man who goes into the market looking for work everyday, Priam slips very quickly into a childlike role with Somax guiding him through the world outside of the monarchy. There is a moment where they stop for a rest and Somax persuades Priam to dip his feet in the stream that is just so touching. I think their relationship is definitely the focus of the novel, above even the relationship between Priam and his dead son, Hector. It's one of those 'light at the end of the tunnel' type friendships in that, through each other, Priam and Somax experience different worlds that give them a glimpse of hope and happiness for the future (although we obviously know that a happy future is not on the cards).

If you're any Odyssey geek then all I can say is you will regret not reading this. It is wonderful. In fact, even if you're not a Troy nerd, read it because I'm pretty certain you'll love it too.



  1. Awww, crap. I'm gonna have to add this to my want list. #1 I can't resist a donkey cover. #2 I am sort of on a Trojan kick since The Song of Achilles. Win!

  2. It was obviously fate you finding this book whilst on holiday! I'm glad that you loved it so much :)


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