Excerpt from The Unknown Terrorist by Richard Flanagan, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Unknown Terrorist

A Novel

by Richard Flanagan

The Unknown Terrorist by Richard Flanagan X
The Unknown Terrorist by Richard Flanagan
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    May 2007, 336 pages

    Paperback:
    Jan 2008, 336 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team
Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


She suspected her looks didn’t amount to much and did not trust the attention she felt they brought. She did not understand that the attention arose from something else, and that everything that she was—her slow movements, her smile, the way she engaged with people—was what attracted others even more than her looks. But she was twenty-six, pretending to be twenty-two, and looks mattered. She had an open, oval face. It was exactly the wrong face for our age.

If the Doll’s looks were exotic, her origins were everyday. She was a westie, though from which particular suburb no one knew. She was always going to leave the west, but she was surprised as a young woman how little she felt she had left behind. It wasn’t that she had no direction home, but that she had little sense she had ever had a home. The Doll had long ago determined that her early life would mean little to her, and she was of the fixed opinion that origins and explanations were not to be hers.

“I grew up like a cat,my friend,” she once told Jodie, who was no friend at all. “My family had no hand in it. You know any cats with an interest in family history?”

Of course, her father came from somewhere, and her mother from somewhere else, and their parents in turn must have had lives of some interest, lived in places and times that might even to our eyes seem exotic, the stuff of mini-series and fat novels discounted at Big W over Christmas; and the further one went back, no doubt the more intriguing it would all become: there might be notorious artists or famous criminals, failed businessmen or successful charlatans, people of variety and interest, of charm and horror. But if this were so, the Doll’s parents knew little of it and had interest in none of it.The pattern and passing of lives before and after them meant no more than the ebb and flow of traffic on the freeway.

Their world was one of suburban verities, their world was that of today: the house, the job, the possessions and the cars, the friends and the renovations, the resort holidays and the latest gadgets—digital cameras, home cinemas, a new pool.The past was a garbage bin of outdated appliances: the foot spa; the turbo oven; the doughnut maker and the record player, the SLR and the VCR and the George Foreman grill. The past was an embarrassment of distressing colours and styles about which to laugh: Mullet haircuts and padded shoulders, top perms and kettle barbecues. Only this week’s catalogue was good and worth getting, no deposit and twenty-four months to pay. Their lives were empty, their lives they regarded as good. The Doll’s strongest memories were of television soaps.

She had watched Neighbours and Home and Away; she had been more upset at the age of eight by Daphne Lawrence dying than when her mother had split from her father the previous year, taking her two younger brothers with her to Hervey Bay to live with a fibreglass swimming pool installer called Ray. Then the Doll hadn’t known what was expected of her, or what was meant by such things; but Ramsay Street and Summer Bay made it clear: you cried and you laughed, you went on and on.

She watched music videos with the girls all beautiful and the men all fat and aggressive; the girls outshone the men, the way she saw it, with their looks and their dancing and the way they mostly didn’t bother saying anything while the men mouthed off—nothing could have prepared her better for pole dancing. She claimed that the one enduring memory she had of her mother before she ran off was of a bad trompe l’oeil painting she had done on the Venetian blinds of their suburban lounge room. It was a picture of a window opening onto the sight of Bali’s Kuta Beach, where, on holiday, she had first met Ray. For a time in her teens, she visited her mother in Hervey Bay occasionally. By then Ray had long gone, and her mother talked only of her two sons, two fat boys who dressed like two fat rappers, said Yo a lot and greeted each other American style, rubbing fist knuckles; it was as if the Doll were a new and not overly interesting neighbour across the street. Her mother’s life was another soap opera but a not particularly good one; a song cycle of drug problems, police visits, prolapses, and new partners. The visits to her mother oppressed the Doll. She went out of duty, and at some point duty seemed not much of a reason and she stopped going. When, a few years later, she heard her mother had been killed in a pile-up on the Hume Highway she was sad, but not overly. It felt more like the confirmation of a long-standing absence than the beginning of one.

Excerpted from The Unknown Terrorist by Richard Flanagan © 2007 by Richard Flanagan. Excerpted by permission of Grove Atlantic. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

and discover exceptional books
for just $3.75 per month.

Find out more


Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: If I Survive You
    If I Survive You
    by Jonathan Escoffery
    In If I Survive You, author Jonathan Escoffery portrays a family falling apart with grace. Main ...
  • Book Jacket: Stories from the Tenants Downstairs
    Stories from the Tenants Downstairs
    by Sidik Fofana
    'Everybody got a story, everybody got a tale / Question is: Is it despair or prevail?' ...
  • Book Jacket: Fire Season
    Fire Season
    by Leyna Krow
    Fire Season is a thoroughly enjoyable novel that touches upon multiple genres and themes. It ...
  • Book Jacket: The Story of Russia
    The Story of Russia
    by Orlando Figes
    In The Story of Russia, British historian and writer Orlando Figes shares panoramic and ...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
The Ways We Hide
by Kristina McMorris
From the bestselling author of Sold On A Monday, a sweeping tale of an illusionist recruited by British intelligence in World War II.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    Natural History
    by Andrea Barrett

    A masterful new collection of interconnected stories, from the renowned National Book Award–winning author.

Book Club Giveaway!
Win A Minor Chorus

A Minor Chorus

A debut novel from a rising literary star that brings the modern queer and Indigenous experience into sharp relief.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

Y Can't G H A

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.