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3.59  ·  Rating Details ·  1,079 Ratings  ·  152 Reviews
Gilgamesh is an evocative novel of encounters and escapes, of friendship and love, of loss and acceptance, a debut that marks the emergence of a world-class talent. It is 1937. On a tiny farm in far southwestern Australia, seventeen-year-old Edith and his Armenian friend arrive--taking the long way home from an archaeological dig in Iraq. Edith is captivated by the tales t ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published April 30th 2003 by Grove Press (first published November 30th 2000)
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Avram Kline Actually, this is a contemporary novel that set in Australia, England, and Armenia. The Epic of Gilgamesh underlies the story, sort like Herodotus in…moreActually, this is a contemporary novel that set in Australia, England, and Armenia. The Epic of Gilgamesh underlies the story, sort like Herodotus in The English Patient. It's fantastic.(less)
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Matt Brady
Even living here, the thing that’s easy to forget about Australia is how vast and empty it really is. Once you leave the noise and crowds of the cities and towns on the coast Australia just opens up, this massive, terrifying, beautiful wilderness. In Gilgamesh, Joan London captures this feeling perfectly, portraying Australia and it’s people with the weird mingling of ambivalence, awe, fear, love and disgust that is very familiar to me.

Gilgamesh is the story of Edith Clarke, a farmgirl growing u
Jan 15, 2010 Jennifer rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
Sounded like an interesting story - young girl from the backwoods of Australia goes on an almost epic search for the Armenian father of her young child in 1937. I enjoyed the first third of the book, learning about Edith's life in Australia and how she finally plans her escape. From there however, things get bogged down by actions that don't make sense and a plotline that really doesn't go anywhere.
She's rescued implausibly several times, and her decision to return to Australia and the life she
Nov 10, 2015 Shane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A dream-like narrative, covering three generations of a family that is pushed, like Gilgamesh, to explore worlds unknown.

Ada, the matriarch, leaves her native England in the aftermath of the first world war to settle with her ex-soldier husband in the wilds of Western Australia, on farmland that barely feeds them. She is determined to build a new life outside of the madness of war. Gilgamesh and his friend Enkidu are embodied in Ada’s nephew Leopold and his follower the Armenian Aram who suddenl
The first part of this book, I hated Edith. What a crazy! Dragging a toddler (not even two years old) across Europe to Armenia during World War II. I mean talk about the dumbest and most selfish thing anyone could do. And for what? For a man she barely knew. But she grew on me. In the end, I liked the book and I even liked Edith.

This is definitely an interesting look at World War II from the Aussie and Armenian perspective. Yes, a side rarely shown.
Apr 24, 2008 Alice rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
the women's lives in Australia and Armenia during WWII are compelling, beautifully written, but the underlying idea about Gilgamesh and Enkidu is somewhat bothersome -- in a way, she leaves the myth intact, suggesting that even adventuring women have lives shaped around men's real excursions.

Nov 24, 2014 Jane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I felt in good hands all the way through Gilgamesh. This book is stylish and quietly assured. I was quite surprised to learn this was London's first novel: she seemed to really know what she was doing.
Others have reported not liking the characters, finding them selfish and unbelievably reckless, but I didn't feel that way. Perhaps because my parents took off to Delhi with me when I was 1 and I've turned out largely OK, and perhaps because I've also often had the urge to just drop everything and
Oct 06, 2013 Gaby rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: on-shelf
How can a book of 256 pages be successfully described as an 'epic'? I was really looking forward to this story and reading this author for the first time. I was disappointed.

The story itself wasn't too bad, but nothing really happened. I found the characters quite inconsistent and uninteresting. I wasn't moved by the sisters' plight or the description of the different settings. Being someone who grew up near the beach in Aus, I was able to visualise their Aussie habitat, but the unimaginative d
Nov 16, 2010 C rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Terrific. A story so well told that I quickly grew to want the best for the characters; I wanted the characters to have relief from their suffering. Edith's love for her son was moving, as was her search for Jim's father. I liked the historical setting of World War 2, and the character of Leopold, Edith's cousin, who was so vivid in my mind, so well portrayed.

The Australian setting in the Bush near Fremantle was a new setting for me. The Caucasus and Aleppo, Syria were also part of the telling
Nov 30, 2015 Audrey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm always surprised when I enjoy what might be categorized as "historical fiction." But, like the best of any kind of fiction, good historical fiction sucks you in with characters you care about and details of setting and place that advance the story. London accomplishes this beautifully, taking the reader from rural Australia to London to Soviet Armenia in the lead-up to, and the duration of, World War II.

This novel deserves the kudos it received on publication. It's a modern-day (well, sort
Jan 19, 2015 Stefanie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As I'm finding with many of the small countries in the world, there isn't a lot of English language fiction set in Armenia. I had already read what is likely the most well known novel about Armenia, Chris Bohjalian's The Sandcastle Girls. So of the few others that I found, I selected Gilgamesh, by Joan London, because of its theme of immigration and the experience of being in an unfamiliar place, which (as you have probably realized) is a favorite of mine. The novel's namesake, Gilgamesh is the ...more
Nov 01, 2015 Mandy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There is enough material in this book for it to be a big gutsy epic, a la Gone With the Wind or Dr. Zhivago - thank God, Joan London resisted and has beautifully written a sparse, eloquent and elegant novel. Lots of gaps for the readers to fill in if they feel the need to add their own padding. Edith is a brave, bright and strong character and, obviously, a female hero.

However, there is, for me, a big gap at the end which I find very tempting to "pad", "...her great adventure now was to stay..."
What goes around, comes around, and then goes around again.

If you're looking for something "spectacular", then this isn't the book for you. However if you're looking for a nice, solid read withouth unnecessary filling - then definitely read this!
Vika Gardner
Jun 06, 2009 Vika Gardner rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Interesting piece of historical fiction, mostly set in Armenia and Australia. Good enough to keep reading, not good enough to make you stay up all night.
Dillwynia Peter
Aug 26, 2014 Dillwynia Peter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am in two minds about this novel - there are some wonderful special moments throughout the book, and yet, I didn't feel satisfied by the end.

The story has a lot going for it. Soldier settlement in WA that stutters along - as so many of them did through inexperience; the outside world coming onto the scene through two exotic men; and the adventures of a young woman caught up in the 2nd World War. A homecoming and with maturity and life experiences, making a new life for oneself. However, in man
Louise Allan
Jun 26, 2014 Louise Allan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved this novel. It is the story of young Edith Clark and her son, Jim, and their journey to find Jim’s father in Armenia during the lead-up to World War II. The story begins with Edith’s parents, Frank and Ada, leaving London for Australia just after World War I. Frank joins a government scheme for repatriated soldiers and takes up a parcel of land in Nunderup, in the southwest of Western Australia.

Frank and Ada have two girls, Frances and Edith, and a son who dies shortly after b
Joni Cornell
I picked up this book because of its title – and the reference to the myth of the King of Uruk and his friendship with Enkidu and what his death does to the King. Rather than the book being about friendship, it is about ‘wanderlust’, or the idea that life is really better over there than here (or it could be about growing up –Leopold makes that observation – Gilgamesh needs to go back home and accept his responsibilities as a King and father)…First Ada and Frank leave England for a bush block in ...more
Erica Verrillo
Oct 20, 2012 Erica Verrillo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a story about the wanderings of the soul. Referring back to the ancient epic of Gilgamesh, Joan London describes the journeys of Edith Clark, a young Australian woman, who sets out across the world to find her lover just prior to WWII. Edith's search takes her, and her baby, from the wilds of Australia to London (where she resides with her exotic Russian aunt, Irina) and finally on to Armenia, where she attempts to locate her son's father on the eve of war. The tale is captivating. Edith ...more
Connor FitzGerald
Sep 09, 2014 Connor FitzGerald rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
London's wonderfully efficient writing style takes you through the trying second world war years of rural Australia. Set in the (then remote) area of south-west Western Australia this books tracks the path of a family as they try to make a meaningful life for themselves in conditions. The chance arrival of some cousins from Europe triggers events which will shape their lives and makes for a compelling read. I had trouble putting this book down and read it in a few days while on holiday - in West ...more
Dec 28, 2015 Robert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sparse, sprawling, a beautiful novel. One of my favorite books I've read from the last couple of years...only reason it's four stars, not five, is the last fourth felt a bit rushed, added-on, and I would've loved seeing it excised and/or expanded. Nitpicky, yes, but that's all I can drudge up. This is a remarkable novel.
Apr 16, 2016 Rushina rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This book has often been described as "Modern shadows of the earliest epic" - a tale of heroic travels of a woman. In that sense, yes it pulls some threads from the 2100 BC epic to weave a story spanning travels across 3 continents and more than 6 decades in mere 250 pages but falls flat in creating any lasting imagery or developing unforgettable characters whatsoever. Parts of the novel are well personified in a poetic style but there are major leaps and jumps in the storytelling which makes yo ...more
Jan 20, 2016 Ruth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was drawn to this novel by the title, for I had often read about the legend of Gilgamesh. Although it was on the whole an enjoyable read, I found it rather annoying in parts and with the exception of Leopold found the characters unlikeable and in parts unbelievable.

The early part of the novel, set in London and Australia gives a satisfactory view of the hardships encountered by those who came from overseas and were given land grants by the government. Were these hardships enough to unhinge Ada
Apr 16, 2014 Nicki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book has stayed with me and I've found myself thinking abut it unconsciously. I came upon it in the library whilst perusing the Jack London selection and didn't think much of it; I even put it back on the shelf. After a quick read of the first page and inside jacket, I decided to give it a try as it seemed an easy read.
The vastness of the Australian land mirror the vastness of the human soul. I found Edith's journey into foreign lands was less a journey to find her child's father than it w
May 25, 2015 Sharon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
by Joan London.

I loved this book. It felt while I was reading I was drifting through all the locations and with in my own head. I loved the way it was narrated by Edith with her thoughts. The Characters were so interesting and the story so compelling.
Edith and her mother for some reason seemed to weave into one person at times for me, there was something so similar about them but they became so different as they matured. The Mother fearful and that fear made her weaker while Edith beca
Jul 16, 2014 Indi rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I really, really did not like this book, for 3 reasons.
1. The Characters
I basically hated all of the characters, except possibly Tita who was just a harmless old woman.
Edith was selfish and stupid, Jimmy was sullen and frustrating, Francine was personality-less, boring and pretentious, Leopold was a pain, Ada was annoying and who even knows what Aram was like because we never got to see! I did not understand what point of 'Mr Five Percent' was or Gareth. The author made Gareth out to be import
PMQ library
MIles Franklin nomination 2002

slow start but loved the characters and how they developed.
Edith, Jim - son of Aram and Leopold. Multi layered characters held intrigue. I would love to do a summary of Jim's character!

Very engaging writing style.
Listened to audio in November 2010 and enjoyed this book all over again.
Michele Marsh
Aug 12, 2016 Michele Marsh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. The style of writing really appealed to me, and I'd like to read more by this author. I'm in the UK and couldn't get a Kindle copy so I ordered the paperback from Amazon. It's a story about growing up, family, travelling and all the adventure that this entails and it's all held together in such a wonderful evocative prose, without being too 'flowery'. Descriptions of different cultures were spot on, and transported the reader to the bleakness of those countries at that time. E ...more
Penni Russon
I was suspicious of this novel to the very last word on the very last page and then I sighed and closed the book and loved it.
Aug 18, 2014 Lianne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a good read, not a great one. Its a slow story that rambles around the way a tumbleweed does, blows here for a while, then over there, without any real point to it all. Edith travels so far, for love? Yet, she seems so passionless and so stupid I just couldn't figure out why I kept reading to the end. I felt like Jim... Understanding so little, and trapped in the end by the inertia of his life. Ada, Irina, Frances and all the other characters add little, if any colour, except for the di ...more
Jennifer Heathcote
Sep 13, 2013 Jennifer Heathcote rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: French Hazel
Shelves: australian
Just loved it. Anyone who understands that human need to travel and explore will love this book
Dec 18, 2014 Laurel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought this pioneer's tale was fresh. It was clear that travel stretched Edith's world view, but I really liked how it portrayed Jim's likely world view as well. The comparison with Gilgamesh seemed a tad silly, there is no reason to make the connection so obvious, but I can see how an homage can be respected. The places they traveled to was wonderful to read, particularly as an American reader. It seems most American travelers do not make it to places outside of Western Europe and the Easter ...more
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Joan London is an Australian author of short stories, screenplays and novels.

She graduated from the University of Western Australia having studied English and French, has taught English as a second language and is a bookseller.

She lives in Fremantle, Western Australia, with her husband Geoff.

Joan London was the youngest of four sisters.

A baby boomer, she and her husband, Geoff, did the mandatory
More about Joan London...

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“He flicked through the yellowed rough-cut pages and breathed its musty smell. It filled him with a strange excitement, as if he'd caught a whiff of ancient, buried cities.” 2 likes
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