January 2020

Andrew McGahan’s 11th and final book, The Rich Man’s House, published posthumously, is a ‘haunted-house’ novel.  The origins of the book are the author’s fascinations with the architecture of mansions, and with the ordeal of mountain climbing and the traits of many climbers.

The novel is an imagined alternative reality centred around an imaginary mountain rising from the Southern Ocean between Antarctica and Australia. The mountain, known as the Wheel, rises almost twenty-five kilometres above sea level, stretching far up into the stratosphere. Only one mountaineer has reached the summit, the multi-billionaire adventurer Walter Richman in 1974. Fictionalised accounts are given throughout the book of various climbing expeditions and explorers’ encounters with the Wheel.

Fifty years later, Richman has purchased nearby Theodolite Island and built his mansion into the rock called the Observatory, designed by architect Richard Gausse. After Gausse’s sudden death, his daughter Rita is invited to the Observatory to honour his final work.

The novel is told primarily from the perspective of Rita, the ‘witness character’. She previously held beliefs about ‘presences’ in the environment, the inorganic awarenesses of the landscape destroyed by the organic that is humans. She gradually learns of Richman’s true character as the supernatural force of the Wheel unleashes its wrath upon Richman and others trapped in the Observatory after an earthquake and tsunami.

McGahan tells the story in several styles. It switches from events in the Observatory to geological accounts of the Wheel, extracts from magazine and newspaper articles, accounts of dramatic attempts to climb the mountain.

There was a mixed response to this book and lively discussion.

A number of readers didn’t finish the book, finding it too long, had poor development of characters, disliked the fictionalisation of facts, and contained too much fantasy. Others ‘couldn’t put it down’, finding it both ‘compelling and ridiculous’, suspenseful, graphic and a ‘slow build’. Most agreed that it was well researched and contained convincing historical (fictionalised) narrative and detailed architectural descriptions although the writing could have been ‘tighter and crisper’. For some the novel contains an environmental message that is to respect it, and is a ‘morality play’ about wealth, possession and power.

Ratings: Claudia 2, Janet 3.5, Jen 4, Lynda 2, Margie 2, Nicola 3.5, Sandi 3 and Pauline 3

Our February meeting will be 10/02/20 at 6:30PM at Preece House, 50 Nerang St Bischof Pioneer Park, Nerang (next to 54 Nerang St. shops) to discuss Grace by Paul Lynch.

Hope to see you all there and happy reading!

 

About Us

We are a group that gets together once a month to discuss good books. Each of us gets to choose a book on a rotational basis, preferably one outside our personal comfort zone – we try to keep the trash to ourselves. After the discussion, we comment on other books we read that month. Most of the time we remain friends after the meeting.

Preece HouseWe meet at the 1948 heritage Preece House, 50 Nerang St Bischof Pioneer Park, Nerang (next to 54 Nerang St. shops. This venue has no toilet but here’s one in the park) on the second Monday of every month from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. excluding Public Holidays. A small contribution is required towards the rent of the room, but not if you are a first timer. The amount depends on the number of people attending.
One book title is chosen each month and we all read that book. There is a ‘host’ who introduces and co-ordinates the discussion. The role of host is rotated around the group so that each member has the opportunity to nominate their book (it could also be an author, theme or genre). The host also acts as chairperson for that meeting.
Although we are not a social club (we are readers), we occasionally attend literary events, relevant movies or plays here at the Gold Coast, Brisbane or Byron Bay. We conform to basic meeting practices and everyone has an equal opportunity to express their opinion. Everyone’s interpretation is valid, as long as it’s expressed respectfully.
We welcome any new members who share our aims and are happy to contribute to our group. Newcomers are not required to have read the book to attend the first meeting and no contribution is required from them.
Feel free to have a look at our Booklist for 2020 and Newsletters in the sidebar. If you are reading this blog in a mobile device, switch to desktop view.

CONTACT DETAILS

We meet from 6:30 to 8:30 PM on the 2nd Monday of every month at the heritage listed Preece House located at Bischof Park, Nerang Street (next corner White St), Nerang next door to shops at 54 Nerang Street. Please contact us for info on meetings that fall on Public Holidays.
For more information use the contact form.

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