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The Right Hand of Sleep

3.42  ·  Rating Details ·  129 Ratings  ·  20 Reviews
This extraordinary debut novel from Whiting Writers’ Award winner John Wray is a poetic portrait of a life redeemed at one of the darkest moments in world history.

Twenty years after deserting the army in the first world war, Oskar Voxlauer returns to the village of his youth. Haunted by his past, he finds an uneasy peace in the mountains–but it is 1938 and Oskar cannot esc
Paperback, 336 pages
Published May 14th 2002 by Vintage (first published 2001)
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Kurt Kemmerer
Nov 28, 2015 Kurt Kemmerer rated it it was amazing
John Wray's stunning 2001 debut may be better than the more well-known "Lowboy," and that would no easy feat. Right Hand evokes so much individual humanity, from so many individual characters that one cannot help but be repeatedly amazed, while completely engaged in the lives of the hero, those being swept up in the advent of fascism in Austria, and those sweeping in that advent, to some extent.

And all that comes after some of the most incredible war scenes I've read in my life. The horrors of
Mar 31, 2013 Mark rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Right Hand of Sleep is set in Austria, 1938, as the presence of the Third Reich begins to take hold. The story centers around Oskar Voxlauer, a man who left his small Austrian hometown in 1917 to fight on the Italian front near the end the of World War I. Oskar quickly deserts the battlefield and heads to the Ukraine, where he succumbs to the lure of the Bolshevik Revolution and then falls for a woman in a socialist workcamp.

After 20 years, he heads back to Austria to find that his village
Katie Lynn
Mar 05, 2012 Katie Lynn rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I felt like the author was so busy writing pretty descriptions and poetic prose that he forgot to tell me a clear story.
Carl R.
May 08, 2012 Carl R. rated it liked it
I’m not sure what to make of The Right Hand of Sleep. I think I missed a lot. Wray is certainly a fine writer, purportedly one of the best of the new crop, and his characters make interesting reading companions. However, I wasn’t sure where the book was going much of the time, and now that it’s over, I’m not sure where it went.
It’s a grim tale in a grim time. Our Austrian protagonist, Alex, s sent off to war in 1917, age fifteen, to fight for the Kaiser. After undergoing some ugliness and bru
Aug 03, 2013 Ian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In John Wray's astonishing first novel The Right Hand of Sleep, it is 1938 and Oskar Voxlauer has returned to Niessen, the Austrian village that in 1917, while still a teenager, he left to join the fighting on the Italian front. Much has happened to Oskar in the intervening years since leaving home. A deserter who abandoned his unit in Isonzo, he later drifted eastward, finally landing in Soviet-controlled Ukraine, naively convinced that Bolshevism represented the future. Initially an enthusiast ...more
In his debut novel, The Right Hand of Sleep, John Wray offers a historical fiction spin on the phrase “you can’t ever go home again.” Oskar Voxlauer left his village in Austria as a teenage to fight in the Great War. Twenty years later, in 1938, he returns to his village to find a rising tide of Nazi influence, which he tries to escape by living in the woods. However, the woman he becomes involved with is the cousin of the local SS commander. There are long italicized flashbacks about both men’s ...more
Mar 09, 2014 Suzanne rated it really liked it
A complicated, convoluted tale of a WWI deserter, who lived in Russia for 20 years before coming back to a Nazi infested Austria, on the brink of another war. Brilliant characterization, both of the main character and his stubborn courage in resisting the Nazis and the Nazi cousin of his lover, and his story of how he gave in to evil. A very unique voice.
Feb 16, 2010 Jen rated it liked it
This novel tells the story of a man named Oskar Voxlauer, who returns to his Austrian village in 1938 after a long period away. Eventually, it becomes clear that he served in World War I and deserted in Hungary. He then trekked to the Ukraine where he lived on a collective. His return home is fraught with challenges, not least of which is coming to grips with the rising tide of Nazism and what it means for his Jewish childhood friend and his new relationship. Wray's writing is beautiful, and, ha ...more
Io Nuca
Jun 02, 2014 Io Nuca rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014, ebook, english
Damn, pe unii oameni (bine, bine, personaje în cazul ăsta) istoria nu-i iartă deloc. Bieții de ei, cum au încercat să facă abstracție de istorie refugiindu-se în lumea lor din pădure și cum istoria i-a găsit, inevitabil, în cele din urmă...
Apr 26, 2009 Lon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Right Hand of Sleep was one of several John Wray titles that I had on my 'hold' list at the library. But I think I can let the others expire as this novel didn't meet my expectations. The characters - even the protagonists - were just a bit too cold and distant. And the writing style - appreciated by the critics - was a bit too abstract and was lost on me. With the bank-and-forth recollections of Oskar Voxlauer and of Else Bauer's Nazi cousin, I sometimes lost my place with characters, time ...more
Sep 07, 2009 Deodand rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, europe
Wray's style reminds me a bit of Cormac McCarthy's in its simplicity. He leaves quite a few things to the imagination in this novel - the narrator is not entirely omniscient, which I appreciate. I also liked the dialogue, it was very natural.

It is easy to develop empathy for Voxlauer, the protagonist, but I didn't really go in for the other characters, especially one who shows up late in the novel and tells his own story. I found his story a little boring.
Melody DeMeritt
Oct 04, 2009 Melody DeMeritt rated it really liked it
John Wray again does a fine job of entering characters lives fully. I learned about the invasion of Austria by Germany. Wray allows you to really grasp the pain/anger/grief/confusion of those men who must go off to fight war. We experience the space between WWI and WWII. I enjoy his clear style and sense of pacing.
Jul 19, 2011 Mike rated it liked it
A strange book in some ways. It's quite well written, and the story, of a young Austrian's life from going off to war, to coming back to an Austria about to be taken over by the Nazis, is an interesting one. Somehow the characters remain one dimensional and I found it hard to get involved in the book.
Apr 10, 2009 Bridgit rated it it was amazing
Very impressed with this novel. What I gleaned is how easy it is to be complacent about the state of the state. (This novel is set in Austria between WWI and WWII.) Very creepy - that part. Not at all heavy-handed. Seems like a very masculine book, which is interesting for me.
Barb Tracy
Jan 01, 2012 Barb Tracy rated it liked it
Story about an Austrian deserter in WWI who returns to his home town 20 years later to witness the beginning of NAzism. The conversation method Wray uses is disconcerting to me. Not a satisfying story.
D. Ennis
Impressive for a first novel. Very authentic. However, the characters were not very well constructed and dialogue style was not conducive to an enjoyable read.
Feb 09, 2011 Gloria rated it it was ok
The flashback scenes from Oskar's time in the war deftly drew me in ... a pity the rest of the book didn't do the same.
Oct 12, 2011 Corey rated it it was amazing
One of the best novels I've read recently and one of the best first novels I've ever read.
Dec 17, 2008 Ellen rated it really liked it
Incredible! Highly recommend, not for the faint of heart. Beautiful.
Apr 09, 2008 Beth rated it it was ok
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John Wray is the author of three critically acclaimed novels, Lowboy, The Right Hand of Sleep and Canaan's Tongue. He was named one of Granta's Best Young American Novelists in 2007. The recipient of a Whiting Award, he lives in Brooklyn, New York.
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