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Death of a River Guide

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  1,858 ratings  ·  178 reviews
Aljaz Cosini is leading a group of tourists on a raft tour down Tasmania's wild Franklin River when his greatest fear is realized—a tourist falls overboard. An ordinary man with many regrets, Aljaz rises to an uncharacteristic heroism, and offers his own life in trade. Trapped under a rapid and drowning, Aljaz is beset with visions both horrible and fabulous. He sees Couta ...more
Paperback, 382 pages
Published 2004 by Atlantic Books (first published 1994)
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Average rating 3.89  · 
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 ·  1,858 ratings  ·  178 reviews

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Amalia Gavea
‘’One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh. But what connects the two? What remains? What abideth in the earth forever?’’

My introduction to Richard Flanagan’s work was the award-winning The Narrow Road to the Deep North which didn’t particularly excite me. I was impressed with his talent for description and the communication of his characters’ thoughts but the story left me cold. Now, I have the blessing to have a wonderful boss. She adores books as much as I do and Death of
Sep 21, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Am I to live? Is my life to be saved? Am I finally to be made visible? Other people who nearly die go down a tunnel and see a great light at the end. But all I have seen are people, the whole lot of them, swirling, dirty, smelly, objectionable and ultimately lovable people, and, I think, if it is to be my misfortune to return into the lamentable physical vessel that has been my body, it is them – these people in the kitchens and office blocks and suburbs and pink leisure suits – that I must make ...more
Ron Charles
Dec 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
There shouldn't be much suspense in a book called "Death of a River Guide," but the quickened pulse of Richard Flanagan's first novel is just part of its magic. The story takes place during the four or five minutes it takes Aljaz Cosini to drown. That's a dangerous position for narrator and author. As Benjamin Franklin said of hanging, it concentrates the mind.

In Aljaz's case, having his head stuck between rocks in a raging river allows him to concentrate on his fractured life. "Death is not the
Aug 02, 2007 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: half-finished
I'm only within the first 20 pages and I have an irrepressible spine-tingling feeling that this will be an amazing book.
Oct 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A torrent of a novel that swirls and eddies and washes over you like the waters of the Franklin River where Aljaz Cosini is drowning. And, as we have always heard, a drowning man sees his whole life flash before him. Here, it is more than just his life, it is also the life of his ancestors, and through them the history of Tasmania, a history that is bloody and disturbing, but touched by magnificent moments of humanity and man's struggle against nature raw in tooth and nail. It is a hugely ...more
Oct 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2016, modern-lit
This is Richard Flanagan's first novel, and it is not an easy one to assess. It tells the story of Aljaz, a river guide who leads rafting parties down a Tasmanian river. From the start it is clear that Aljaz is dying, and the book describes his visions of his past, his ancestry and the wider history of Tasmania. Difficult to follow, but full of imagination.
Aug 10, 2018 rated it liked it
hmm... not sure if Flanagan is trying to make up for the spiritual poverty of white settler Australians by appropriating indigenous cosmologies ( he endows his red-headed protagonist, who discovers he’s like 1/32nd Aboriginal, with shamanistic powers of vision and omniscience) or if he’s achieving something more interestingly ecocritical here - suggesting at a kind of kinship/stewardship potential that we all can (and should) share with the natural world.

very fragmented, breaks with linear
Oct 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I thought that Flanagan's "Wanting" was superb. This one is even better. One reviewer called it "the sort of stunt Faulkner and Ambrose Bierce together might have concocted..."I see the Faulkner more than the Bierce, but then I've only read The Devil's Dictionary. As with "Wanting", this book takes place in Tasmania. The narrator, the eponymous river guide, who has fallen into whitewater at the bottom of a huge falls on the Franklin River, is in the process of drowning from the very beginning of ...more
Dec 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
When the biggest "spoiler" is in the title of the book, that book shouldn't be quite so tense! It's a bit like the movie Apollo 13 where I still wonder if they will make it back safely despite having seen the actual events unfold in 1970 and the movie at least twice. This book tells the story of a river guide drowning and the visions he has: they say a drowning man sees his life flash before his eyes, but this river guide sees his whole family history previously unknown to him. In parallel, we ...more
James Murphy
Dec 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Here Flanagan continues to treat two of his great themes, race and love. It's a broad delta of a family saga which narrows to the funnel of Aljaz Cosini's life and his emotional purge on Tasmania's wild Franklin River. Perhaps the ending is a bit trite and smudges Flanagan's achievement. But getting there you'll encounter some of the most majestic prose you'll ever find.
Jennifer (JC-S)
Oct 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: oz-authors-2018
‘I have been granted visions – grand, great, wild, sweeping visions. My mind rattles with them as they are born to me.’

Aljaz Cosini and Jason Krezwa are river guides, taking a group of tourists on a raft trip down Tasmania’s Franklin River. Rain falls, and the river is in flood. Flowing rapidly, the Franklin is more dangerous. One of the tourists falls overboard and drowns. Then Aljaz becomes trapped under a rapid, and as he drowns is beset with visions. It is said that drowning men will see
Anita Tymkiw
Jul 04, 2018 rated it liked it
Aljaz Cosini is a river guide who drowns in the Franklin River in Tasmania. As he drowns he experiences visions of his life and that of his ancestors. He comes to understand his roots and the difficulties of his own life. These visions also tell the story of Aljaz's last days and his eventual drowning. The book is a bit of a slow burn but a clever and unique way to tell a historical story. The book has been called "beautiful and lyrical" and lyrical it certainly is. There are some ...more
Dec 31, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: oz-genre-2019
An intriguing rendering of the life and prolonged death of river guide Aljaz Cosini, trapped beneath a waterfall on the Franklin River in Tasmania having attempted to rescue one of his fellow river travellers - whilst stuck under the water, Aljaz relives not only episodes from his own life but also those of this ancestors and their contribution to the history of Australian colonisation. Brilliantly vivid historical descriptions and characterisations were tempered somewhat for me by dreams and ...more
Lesley Moseley
Mar 13, 2017 rated it it was ok
DNRA Bit too esoteric and verbose. Great descriptors of the beautiful Franklin. Felt a bit mixed 'metaphor -ish' with the time frame of say 4 minutes having too many minutes of memory.
Beth Asma
Jan 05, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is actually a 4.5 for me. I really liked the story, in particular the mix of powerful realism and equally powerful magical realism, each in their own ways of being something strong. There's some prominent characters, plenty of historical characters of one genealogical family of Tasmania (1820s-1990s), and plenty more characters you know are there as in the whitewater rafting expedition on Tasmania's Franklin River but might not be named (the group of punters; the group of helicopter ...more
Apr 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: aussie
This is the book that lead me to find out more about Richard Flanagan, this and his Australian Story Episode on the ABC. He is an amazing writer and human being who understands that all things are connected and we are all one without being all namby pamby and new agey about it:

"There’s a modern sort of mythology …that the wilderness is a comforting and pleasant place to be, as though it’s all ambient music…at one with nature. I think the good thing about the natural world is that it forces us
Mohammed Morsi
Aug 25, 2018 rated it liked it
It's an interesting story. I liked the beginning and then it got a bit too difficult to read. At least for me. I liked it because it was different, the writing idea is good and the overall plot is interesting.
There are parts of dialogue that are difficult to understand for me as I'm not raised with the English jargon.
And then there's the first person going to third in the same sentence which requires a six-times-over the same sentence to get the idea.
You get the idea :)
The book is a good read
Jun 07, 2009 rated it did not like it
I cannot decide what to read by this author. I have to read something. Here, I am guessing, the author is writing about "what lies close to his heart". Should I start here? If anybody has read several of Flanagan's books, please help me choose one! In addition, if I don't like it, I will learn some Tasmanian history.


I tried this a year or two ago.....and forgot to note my impression. I did NOT finish the book. I found it disjointed. I was not enticed by the author's manner
Dedication: to Majda, my rock my love

Opening quote, first of two:
Who Present, Past & Future Sees
Whose ears have heard,
The Holy Word,
That walk'd among the ancient trees
- William Blake

Opening: As I was born the umbilical cord tangled around my neck and I came into the world both arms flailing, unable to scream and thereby take the air necessary to begin life outside the womb, being garrotted by the very thing that had succoured me and given me life.

TR Death of a River Guide
5* Gould's Book of
There is nothing really wrong with this book and it may even be a really good book, as other reviewers have indicated. There are some remarkable passages and a couple of interesting memories. However, this book did not speak to me. I found it muddled, swirling, eddying, like the river in the gorge and like the unfortunate rafters I found it took all my effort to hang on and to get to the end.

At times I wished he would just hurry up and die. I'm not generally so callous...
Laura Walin
This book was a bit too cleverly put together for my taste. Meaning that I was not able to follow the relations of the many characters who timewise covered almost two hundred years. Hence also the bigger themes - which I know were there - did not manage to touch me. At times the story managed to really captivate me but the feeling was easily destryed by the jumping storytelling.
Sep 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
This was an interesting novel of a man looking back on his life while he was drowning. The writing was wonderful, in the lines of Faulkner in a way. It gave the notion that you do see your life played out as you die and that there are the people you know, family, friends, and those you love who are there for you at the end of your earthly life.
Mar 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: c20th, australia
Death of a River Guide is one of the finest books of our time. This haunting tale encompasses all that it means to be part of this land Australia – beauty and terror; laconic present and murky past; courage, tenacity and acceptance

To read the rest of my review please visit
Bryn Hammond
Jan 05, 2015 rated it it was ok
A month on, my psyche has not healed from an afternoon with Death of a River Guide. An afternoon only, because it hurt my spirit to read. How can I explain?
Jennifer Hughes
May 23, 2017 rated it did not like it
Recommended to Jennifer by: Little library
The premise was cool but the execution odd to me in this novel. I just couldn't get into it.
rebecca robertson
Mar 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical, fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Michael Salmon
This is my first attempt at true modern contemporary fiction, recommended to me by a friend (a river guide), it was a bit of a leap for my taste at first but I grew to appreciate it as it went further into the story.

I found myself looking up places and really following the trails of the people involved, from the convicts shipped to Australia, to Aljaz himself in his travels across the country and Tasmania itself.

I wouldn't have thought I would get much enjoyment from a book whose conclusion was
Heather Carrillo
May 02, 2019 rated it it was ok
It's probably a bad sign if you groan when there is another page and the book just won't end.
Melinda Kovac
Mar 17, 2018 rated it liked it
I have to admit that as a lover of Richard Flanagan I found this one a little disappointing. I struggled to get through the first third but then enjoyed the story after that initial struggle. I did find some of the use of names quite frustrating as they kept taking me out of the story, e.g. using whole names every time Couta Ho and Maria Magdalena Svevo were mentioned, as well as Aljaz referring to himself in the third person. Some sections of the book were extremely moving, such as what ...more
Anne Fenn
Nov 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
I reread this lately to add to my Tasmania trip. It’s a fantastic read, full of characters but with an overarching narrator you’ll never forget. The Franklin river is a dominant thread but the story evolves in past and present times and places, tracing the lives of a range of fascinating characters. The natural and wild environment features strongly. It’s beautifully written, from tough, strong words to the most delicate descriptions. It’s a huge sustained feat of imagination.
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Richard Flanagan (born 1961) is an author, historian and film director from Tasmania, Australia. He was president of the Tasmania University Union and a Rhodes Scholar. Each of his novels has attracted major praise. His first, Death of a River Guide (1994), was short-listed for the Miles Franklin Award, as were his next two, The Sound of One Hand Clapping (1997) and Gould's Book of Fish (2001). ...more
“He fell asleep and again dreamt of being rowed by two myrtle trees, except this time they rowed through the stars to the moon, and it was quiet, and while everything went on forever the stars were as knowable and as safe and as comforting a world as that of the rainforested rivers.” 2 likes
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