Ransom By David Malouf


Unfortunately, I've been busy doing a million different things lately, so even though I had big dreams for Tyra's Bookshelf this year, I haven't really followed through.

But, I've realised that if I have a set plan, I'll be able to publish content more regularly. However, I am nearing the end of high school (one more year, just one more year), so obviously, life will be chaotic.

Today, to celebrate my return, I am going to be reviewing a book that, even though I only discovered at the end of last year, has honestly changed my life.


Ransom by Australian author, David Malouf is a reimagination of one of the most famous stories in literature, Homer's Illiad. In this novel, filled with pain, grief, loss and redemption, Malouf shines light on the relationship between two men from opposing sides of the war - Achilles, the Greek, who had lost his beloved Patroclus in the siege of Troy; and Priam, king of Troy, whose son, Hector was savaged by Achilles, in turn for the killing of Patroclus.

Achilles, to try and quell his grief, drags Hector's body around the outside of Troy, and refuses to give up his body, much to the distress of Hector's family. But, King Priam is convinced that his son's body can be reclaimed - through taking a chance and breaking away from traditional ways, through stripping himself of his title and the expectations attached, and through bringing two people together - father-to-father, man-to-man.


Last year, just before school finished for the year, a copy of this book was placed in front of me. Eyebrows furrowed, I turned the novel over, before quickly scanning through the blurb, which just made me more confused. Achilles? Priam? Homer? Iliad?

I had heard all these words before, but the stories that were connected to them always seemed to far out of reach. Sure, I like to think that I read a range of genres, and can handle an 'adult' book, but even so, I'm still a teenager - and sometimes, I can't help but want to sit and read a book about witches, wizards and Shadowhunters.

"The book has a horse on the front, it seems friendly." I thought. "Can't be too bad, right?"

That seemed to reassure me, so I simply opened the book and listened as my teacher begin to read out the first chapter.

In this moment, I knew that Ransom was no ordinary novel.

You see, I think that Australia has created some amazing authors. I mean, if you read the review I did on The Book Thief (which I wrote ages ago, and is actually quite terrible), it's obvious that I love Australian authors. Not only do I feel a special bond with them, because, hey, we're from the same country, but, I genuinely do believe that there is something uniquely incredible about these authors.

And, of course, David Malouf is no different.

The way that Malouf describes the world of Ransom paints the perfect picture. Even something as simple as the ocean, becomes an example of poetic brilliance - "the gulf can be wild at times, its voices so loud in a man's head that it is like standing stilled in the midst of battle. But today in the dawn light it is poetic. Small waves slither to his sandalled feet, then sluice away with a rattling sound as the smooth stones loosen and go rolling." 

As well as this, Malouf effortlessly creates a series of characters that you can't help but love. To me, there is no good versus evil, superhero versus villain, present in the book, because each person has their reasons for their decisions, and has to battle their own inner demons. I adore each person that was introduced to me - Patroclus, Achilles' adopted brother and "companion since childhood", Achilles, the strong warrior on the outside, but a young man grieving the loss of his mother and his brother, my personal favourite, King Priam, the "ceremonial figurehead" of Troy, that decided to retrieve the body of his son, and Somax, the ordinary, "bull-shouldered" carter who influenced Priam on their journey, helping him to become less of a King, and more of a human. Of course, even the minor characters were paid close attention to by Malouf - such as Hecuba, the distraught mother, and wife of Priam, who simply wanted to be a good parent to her, now dead, child. Malouf uses the words on the page to turn these characters into real people.

However, what I think is the most beautiful thing about Ransom is that it is filled with layers and layers of meaning. The first time I read the novel in its entirety, during the summer holidays last year, I understood what was happening, but I only really saw it on a literal level. There was a war, Patroclus died, Hector died, Achilles was angry, Somax drove Priam to go get Hector's body. The end. Yet, when I decided to read it a second time, I uncovered so much more than what is on the surface. This book isn't about the war as a whole, it is about the relationships between fathers and sons, becoming human, dealing with grief and loss, identity, and how war influences each individual.  Each phrase takes on a million different meanings, and are all significant in their own way, which is what makes this novel so special.

While studying Ransom, this year, and even after we finished, I have read the novel over and over again, because I can't get enough! The pages are filled with highlighted phrases and borderline illegible scrawl around the sides, because I keep finding something new that resonates with me.

In saying that, here are a few quotes that I cherish dearly (they're so beautiful!)

  • "A world of pain, loss, dependency, bursts of violence and elation; of fatality and fatal contradictions, breathless leaps into the unknown"
  • "He felt his soul change colour"
  • "My role was to hold myself apart in ceremonial stillness and let others be my arm, my fist - my breath too when talk was needed"
  • "All this as warm in his memory as some moment recalled from childhood, with a whole life lived between, though in fact it happened just hours ago."

I highly recommend this book to everyone, especially if they're wanting to step away from SAD excuses for romance novels (*cough* Twilight *cough), and instead sink their teeth into a book that is magical in its own right.

Rating 5/5 

Let me know if you've read this book, or want to read this book now, in the comments below! Also, because I'm going to make more time to blog, let me know what you want to see on Tyra's Bookshelf!

- Tyra xx

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The owner of this blog is not compensated to give their opinion on the literature, websites, and/or various other topics that are reviewed. The views that are expressed on this blog are purely the blog owners. The owner of this blog does not own any of the pictures posted on here, unless stated otherwise.

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