With this novel I’ve read all of Flanagan’s books except Death of a River Guide – my favorite by far is Gould’s Book of Fish but the others are very good, especially The Narrow Road to the Deep North which won the Booker Prize this year.
The setting for The Sound of One Hand Clapping is the east coast of New Zealand. somewhere near Hobart but toward the mines where many Czechoslovakians, sometimes with families, moved during and after the atrocities of WWII. Sonja’s mother and father were among those immigrants.
It was a hard life, the work paid very little and the immigrants were treated very badly. One night Sonja’s mother walked off in a blizzard and never came back. This has haunted Sonja ever since. Her father, Bojan Buloh, became an abusive drunk. We know Sonja gets away because there are scattered chapters dealing with the events of 1990, when Sonja came from Sidney to visit.
As in The Narrow Road to the Deep North Flanagan spares the reader nothing – the violence is there – in your face – inescapable.
Themes? Violence, desperation, love, pain, abandonment, hope.
Butlers Gorge hydroelectric plant (photos): http://www.hydro100.com.au/timeline-story/recollections-early-hydro-camp