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The Great World

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  569 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
By the author of 'Remembering Babylon', 'The Great World' is a remarkable novel of self-knowledge and of fall from innocence, of survival and witness.
Paperback, 330 pages
Published 1993 by Picador (first published December 27th 1989)
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Jul 12, 2010 rated it really liked it
Did not expect to like this but I did. First time I've read Malouf - he writes with an extraordinary lyrical tone and poetic introspection. His characters tend to follow a Joycean road with their intense and rich interior lives while inarticulate with the people around them.

The plot covers about 60 odd years, two wars and two families interconnectedness via the main characters of Digger and Vic. While WW2 is pivotal for Digger and Vic, the book begins a bit like Faulkner's The Sound and The Fury
Jan 01, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Aussie lit lovers
Shelves: 2014-reads
Malouf takes the reader through a journey of Aussie life pre- and post-WWII as seen through the eyes of Digger Keen and Vic Curran. Its an intriguing trek since both men find themselves on different paths. I believe this book deserves more critical praise than what it has gotten because the author does a wonderful job IMO of using the course of history to grow his characters. Yeah, that's what a good book is supposed to do, but I think he does it exceptionally well.

I don't think this book is fo
“El gran mundo” de David Malouf se desarrolla en Australia a lo largo de buena parte del siglo XX. Pero más que centrarse en la Historia en mayúscula, la que se recoge en enciclopedias y libros de texto, se centra en la historia de amistad entre Digger Keen y Vic Curran. De origen humilde, Digger y Vic, llevan existencias paralelas, su infancia coincide con la gran depresión y la viven en un hogar desestructurado en mayor o menor grado. Luego, sus caminos se cruzan durante la segunda guerra mund ...more
Nov 09, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wwii
I found this book a little disappointing. Perhaps this was because I was so impressed by Remembering Babylon, the first book I read by Malouf. Like Remembering Babylon, The Great World stands out due to Malouf's distinct and impressive writing style. With relatively few words Malouf can deftly sketch everyday observations or events and suggest their profundity. So I can't figure out, when the author builds up his two main characters by layering minutiae after minutiae about their lives, from bir ...more
May 13, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Great World is a Great Book.
Great Story, Great Characters, Great Writing.

I Greatly recommend it.
Jul 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Why oh why has it taken me this long to discover David Malouf?! He's quickly become one of my favorite Aussie authors. I've not come across many other writers that are able to get inside every single character's heads as well as Malouf. He really gets in there, I felt like I understood every character, from their every motivation and weakness to their sins and ultimate downfalls. His writing is crisp and to the point, Malouf does not waste words. I could just describe the story here, give a summ ...more
Mar 09, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love the way David Malouf writes. After reading his Remembering Babylon I would welcome a chance to read all his books. This one was perhaps a bit to ethereal for me but it was unforgettable and totally original. Set in Australia it concerns two men who form an unlikely bond during WWII when they were held for three years as Japanese prisoners of war. Starved and sick, they rely on each other to survive. After the war they return to their previous lives, meeting occasionally, and always feelin ...more
Jul 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As with my love of Patrick White: so to Malouf. This novel is much more 'novel like' and less prose heavy like 'Ransom', 'An Ordinary Life' and even 'Remembering Babylon.' He taps into the profane, the beautiful, masculinities, war, Mateship, love – all the great themes — in such a beautiful manner. The characters all
possess such an innate charm and haunting ability to read and understand one another. It's a ripping yarn, full of wonder at the world and infused with his beautiful spiritualism.
The story of two Australian men, Digger and Vic, and how their lives are effected by being prisoners-of-war together in a WWII Japanese camp. The author is especially skilled at description and there are several very moving scenes with beautiful imagery. This writing falls into the New Yorker category of fiction.
There is so much I liked about this book; sections I would have given a five star rating, but they were dragged down by many sections that I didn't feel contributed to the story at all, and other sections where I couldn't quite grasp what profundity Malouf was trying to get across (I find this a lot with Malouf's writing it seems). Digger is a great character, and sections with him were beautifully elegiac, from his childhood through Changi prison and Burma Railway, and to his life-in-recovery a ...more
Christine Parker
The story revolves around the complex relationships that develop around a certain set of circumstances. Not an easy read.
Brian Grass
Oct 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An incredibly rich and subtle read. Each chapter reads like a separate book. Very dense and thoughtful. Strong recommendation. Not a fast read! Excellent prose.
Apr 10, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Una novela que es la historia de vida de Digger y Vic. Historias humanas que van desde la Guerra Mundial en un campo de prisioneros japonés en Asia a la vida diaria en su Australia natal durante la edad adulta. Bien escrito, aunque debo decir que no me ha enganchado. La primera mitad del libro me ha gustado mucho más que la segunda.
Dana Stabenow
May 30, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
My book club's book for June. There is some wonderful writing here. Just a few examples:

She had a war on with the magpies. She had lots of wars, but this was her fiercest and most continuous...Big black-and-white brustes with sharp little eyes and even sharper beaks, she hated them, and wondered really what they had been put in the world for except to be a torment to smaller creatures. They strutted about as if they owned the place and were just waiting to take over...Black and white, like blood
Feb 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 1989
High 4. Malouf has written a sublime portrayal of lives whose fates become irreversibly intertwined when thrown together under extreme situations – in this case survival as POWs in a Japanese camp during the Second World War. The novel centres on the difficult relationship which draws Vic Curran and Digger Keen together as they struggle to overcome their brutal treatment at the hands of their wartime foes. The former outwardly achieves success as a ruthless businessman, and is an individual whos ...more
What a fantastic book. Truly marvelous. Whilst there is not a strong narrative focus, the book does follow the lives of predominantly two main people. So, through that there is a solid and easy to follow narrative.

However, the book is more concerned with each discrete moment. and what moments they are. Ranging from the fall of Singapore during WWII, delirious times spent with fevers or the awkwardness of a society wedding. Through out all of this epic of family, nation and belonging Malourf man
Carolyn Mck
Jan 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: re-read
I re-read this novel just before I read Narrow Road to the North and it moved me more. The experience of Australian WW2 prisoners of war is central to this novel too, but Malouf is more interested in character and in how war throws together people who would otherwise have nothing in common. Digger is a loner, a slow-speaking country fellow; Vic is an orphan who has been given an opportunity to make good and means to take it, by any means. The scope of the novel is broad, allowing us to understan ...more
I have to be honest, I don't remember much about this book. It took me almost a month to read it, which is never a good sign. These are the notes I made at the time, in their entirety: Not much to say about this one. Interesting, kind of, and pretty well-written. Ultimately forgettable.

So forgettable that I've successfully forgotten it.

For what it's worth, I didn't think it was bad, and I think it's entirely possible that other readers would engage with it much more than I did; I just wasn't the
Rich Beebe
This is the third book by David Malouf (in addition to "An Imaginary Life" and "Ransom") that I have read and while I enjoyed it, I did not find it measuring up to either of those novels. Although much of his writing, as always, is lyrical, Malouf never seemed to bring his usual powerful storytelling to full life. Even the scenes of heartbreak and struggle among the lives of the Aussie prisoners of war during World War II lacked Malouf's usual vividness and immediacy. And the arc of his story, t ...more
Oct 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful yarn in the typical style of Malouf's stories and style. An epic of story that covers decades but neatly weaves simple stories about people's everydayness, even in the context of war and capture. His sense of history neatly draws a thread through the sequence of scenes or connected stories, at times carefully moving to and fro without losing the present. His descriptions capture that everydayness in a way that makes living amplified even in its mundanity. There is no glamour but inte ...more
Noel Landry
Jul 17, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Strange book, the first 100 pages I thought wow, this could be the best Australian novel I've ever read. Great characters, detail, the pace gripping and a wide sweeping story. Then it gets a bit bogged in the middle, which to be fair is reflective of the space in the plot. And finally the back 1/3 is hurried and with so many characters introduced, many come, go and fall away, and too many of the supporting characters end up as a bit half drawn. It is unquestionably a good book, I was just a bit ...more
Apr 05, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mandy by: Beejay
This book shows how war affects different people and by goodness, this book affected me - I felt quite emotional towards the end. This book just makes me think, about war, about people who went to and are at war, about people who have loved ones who go to war, about those lives lost and those who survive - very thought-provoking.
Lisa Ard
Apr 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fabulous read with big themes as the reader follows the lives of two Australian men, who met in a WWII POW camp. Their lives and those of their family are explored. Relationships to each other and the world are central.
Jess Tait
Jan 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
Another beautiful work. Fell in love with the characters in this book, flaws and all. And the relationship between Digger and Vic is exquisite and written masterfully. Lyrical language, Malouf at his finest.
Jan 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's wonderful to encounter a new-to-me author. I particularly enjoyed his use of language and the sentence construction. And, I found the story intriguing. I look forward to reading more of his novels, especially because a number of reviewers say is it not his best.
Aug 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book for uni, it's not something I would normally go for. Australian literature and history, war... it's not my thing. Quite taken aback by how engaging I found it, sucked me in and broke my heart.
Jun 09, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition

The writing is wonderful and the characterization is carefully done but I lost interest in the characters about halfway through.
Rusty Wright
The characters were weird and not believable, which was distracting and made it very hard to read.
Carol Peters
Jan 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I suppose it's not a 5 star, but it's nearly so. Characterization outstanding.
Sep 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read this book twice. Although the storyline would spring forwards and back - I enjoyed Malouf's general descriptions and turns of phrase.
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David Malouf is the author of ten novels and six volumes of poetry. His novel The Great World was awarded both the prestigious Commonwealth Prize and the Prix Femina Estranger. Remembering Babylon was short-listed for the Booker Prize. He has also received the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Award. He lives in Sydney, Australia.
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