A Novel

Book - 2003
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Baker & Taylor
Nineteen-year-old Edith and her son leave rural Australia for Soviet Armenia in 1939, inspired by an earlier visit from her English cousin and his Armenian friend and their talk of "Gilgamesh," only to be trapped by World War II.

Blackwell North Amer
Gilgamesh is a saga of family, lost love, and the power of storytelling. It is 1937. The modern world, they say, is waiting to erupt. On a tiny farm in far southwestern Australia, seventeen-year-old Edith lives with her mother and her sister, Frances. One afternoon two men, her English cousin Leopold and his Armenian friend Aram, arrive, taking the long way home from an archaeological dig in Iraq.
Leopold and Aram captivate Edith with tales of exotic lands and cultures - among them, the story of Gilgamesh, the legendary king of Uruk in ancient Mesopotamia. Gilgamesh's great journey of mourning after the death of his friend Enkidu, and his search for the secret of eternal life, is to resonate throughout Edith's years. She is captivated by their stories, and by the thought of a world far beyond the narrow horizon of her small down of Nunderup.
Two years later, in 1939, Edith and her young son, Jim, set off on a journey of their own, to Soviet Armenia, where they are trapped by the outbreak of war. This is the story of encounters and escapes, of friendship and love, of loss and acceptance. Marrying the intimate scope of a life with the enormity of war, Gilgamesh examines what happens when we strike out into the world, and how, like the wandering king, we find our way home.

Publisher: New York : Grove Press, [2003]
Edition: 1st American ed
ISBN: 9780802117410
Branch Call Number: Fiction Lon
Characteristics: 256 p. ; 22 cm


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Aug 19, 2016

This stark, but lush novel of Edith, living in the isolated bush of SW Australia, visited by her English archaeologist cousin and his Armenian driver, with whom she falls in love. Unaware of her pregnancy, and of looming war, she sets off to find him. When WW II erupts, she's trapped behind enemy lines, and raises Jim as Dmitry, with Armenian as his first language. She gets lots of help, but is never sure whether she's being followed. This first novel was nominated for Australia's prestigious prizes. Edith learns of Aram's death, but her cousin reappears, and helps her get out of the USSR. She's learned what will become her life work, and falls in love with her cousin, who promises to come to Australia for her, but can't fulfill that promise. Jim can't settle in his native country, but they ultimately find a way of living there that suits them both. Highly satisfactory.

Jun 23, 2016

I love this novel and am reading it for the second time. It is well worth it.

WVMLStaffPicks Dec 23, 2014

The beautiful story of a young woman who set out with her baby son from Australia to Armenia just before the outbreak of the Second World War. She was trying to find her child's father. To attempt to describe this complex but easily readable novel in a few sentences is to do it a great injustice. It is a first novel and was nominated this year for Australia's most prestigious literary prize.

Mar 05, 2013

the cover reflects this tale of yearning beautifully. A recommended read.

Jul 28, 2012

A family saga ranging from Western Australia to England to Armenia to the Middle East. London can tell a story, but it is a very usual story.

quagga Sep 19, 2009

Edith is seventeen and pregnant. She is living on a hardscrabble farm with her older sister and mentally ill mother in western Australia. Edith decides to find the baby's father, but all she knows is that he is probably somewhere in Armenia. World War II is about to begin.

This character-driven novel packs a lot of punch into 256 pages. Very satisfying.


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