I’m not sure why I chose this book from the library at the weekend. I hadn’t heard of the title or this Australian author before and the cover isn’t especially captivating but I’m so glad I did. The first thing I have done on finishing it is to add Joan London’s second novel The Good Parents to my wish list.
Gilgamesh is such a lovely book, gentle undramatic writing about events that are anything but. It is essentially the story of a young mother Edith and her baby son Jim, starting out in 1930s Australia, travelling under challenging pre war conditions to Armenia, in search of the boy’s father and their place in the world. As they travel to far away and exotic places, meeting various and at times slightly magical characters, their search mirrors that of countless others who have travelled before them, companions of one sort or another answering the call to travel and find their ‘home’. These travels also reflect those of Gilgamesh, the character of the world’s oldest known poem who had all material riches but travelled the world in search of immortality. Edith’s cousin Leopold carries this poem with him everywhere and it is Leopold and his friend Aram’s visit from London early on in the story that sets off the chain of events that follow. The history of the characters, their families, their homelands are acknowledged throughout and this was something I loved about the book.
The last third of the book was a little meandering at times. It didn’t quite take the direction I was hoping and I was preparing to be a little disappointed. But the ending was completely right and in keeping with the spirit of the story.
2001, 272 pages