Andrew McGahan's THE RICH MAN'S HOUSE
Updated: Sep 2, 2019
“If there’s an exception to every rule about writing, then the exception might as well be you.” - Andrew McGahan
Late last year news broke that Andrew McGahan, Miles Franklin Award winning author of The White Earth, had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and only had months to live. In February this year he sadly passed away. I was absolutely devasted by this news. Andrew McGahan was the first Australian author I ever connected with. Growing up as a teenager in the 1990s I wasn’t really aware of Australia’s literary culture outside the books I had to read for school and even then, I can really only remember reading two Australian books. During my second last year of high school my mum opened a bookshop and I was exposed for the first time to the world of books. All these stories, books and authors were now at my fingertips and the possibilities were endless. But I wasn’t drawn to Australia books. I was drawn to authors from America and to a lesser extent Britain. But that all changed with one book. I can still distinctly remember first reading Praise. It absolutely knocked my socks off. Here was a young Australian writer who had written a novel so raw and brutally honest it opened my eyes up to what was out there, was being written and published in my own country. I immediately followed up with 1988, which had just come out and then eagerly awaited every new book from Andrew McGahan from then on.
Then in 2004 came The White Earth. Up until then Andrew McGahan’s books were my own reading pleasure. I didn’t really handsell that many in our suburban Sydney bookshop. But after reading The White Earth I instantly knew three things:
This was the greatest Australian novel I had ever read. (it still is)
Everyone in Australia should read this novel because of the story it told and how it told it.
I could be part of putting this book in as many hands as possible.
I still get the same feeling with other books now, it is why I love being a bookseller, but The White Earth was the first time I had that distinct gut-feeling and drive to share a book as widely as I possible could. The White Earth was the novel that made me a bookseller.
The Rich Man’s House is Andrew McGahan’s final novel. I came to this book with a lot of mixed feelings. I was excited to read a new Andrew McGahan, as always. But I was also deeply saddened. With all Andrew McGahan’s novels I had no idea what to expect but, as always, I absolutely loved it. The best way to describe this novel is that it is utterly enthralling. You are in the thrall of Andrew McGahan and you are in the thrall of an enigmatic mountain known as The Wheel. The Wheel is the highest mountain on the planet, higher than Mount Everest by a staggering 17,000 metres. It is situated in the Southern Ocean between Tasmania and Antarctica. Andrew McGahan does such a brilliant job building the history and mythology of The Wheel than even though the rational part of your mind knows it is complete fiction the irrational part of your mind makes you google to see what parts might be real. Andrew McGahan builds an entire alternate history around this gigantic mountain as people try to conqueror its summit. But the mountain defeats all comers until billionaire Walter Richman throws all his considerable resources at scaling its peak and becomes the first and only person to do so. Walter Richman then becomes as enigmatic as the mountain itself. His fame and notoriety intrinsically linked to The Wheel and its own mythology. When he decides to build a mansion at the foot of The Wheel 40 years after his conquest he lets nothing, and nobody, stand in his way. Now with his new home completed he invites the key people involved in its construction to stay for the weekend to celebrate his new achievement and that is when this inimitable thriller begins…
This is a truly magnificent work. It has all the hallmarks of Andrew McGahans previous work; it is gothic, powerful and bold, but it is also unlike anything else I have read before. As a reader you are equally enthralled with the novel and with the enigmatic mountain at the centre of the story that also enchants all the characters of the book that come into contact with it. It is an immense thriller but at the same time thought-provoking and insightful with ideas that make you stop and question what is really going on. This is an incredible work of fiction by a writer whose loss will felt long into the future. Every Andrew McGahan novel holds a special place in my heart. Praise was a coming of age book for me as a reader. The White Earth was a coming of age book for me as a bookseller. The Rich Man’s House is a final opus by a writer I will never forget.
Title: The Rich Man's House
Author: Andrew McGahan
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Length: 234.0 millimetre
Width: 153.0 millimetre
Publication Date: 03/09/2019