I woke with a gasp. And lay in the dark, open-mouthed, holding my breath. That feeling . . . that feeling was indescribable. For a moment I had felt as if I were falling . . . falling into bliss.
All his life, Richard Kline has been haunted by a sense that something is lacking. He envies the ease with which others slip into contented suburban life or the pursuit of wealth. As he moves into middle age, Richard grows angry, cynical, depressed.
But then a strange event, a profound epiphany, awakens him to a different way of life. He finds himself on a quest, almost against his will, to resolve the ‘divine discontent’ he has suffered since childhood. From pharmaceuticals to New Age therapies to finding a guru, Richard’s journey dramatises the search for meaning in today’s world.
This audacious novel is an exploration of masculinity, the mystical and our very human yearning for something more. It is hypnotic, nuanced and Amanda Lohrey’s finest offering yet – a pilgrim’s progress for the here and now.
Amanda Lohrey is the author of the acclaimed novels The Morality of Gentlemen, Camille’s Bread and The Philosopher’s Doll; the novella Vertigo; as well as the award-winning short story collection Reading Madame Bovary. Her latest novel, A Short History of Richard Kline, was longlisted for the 2016 Stella Prize. She has also written two Quarterly Essays: Groundswell and Voting for Jesus. In 2012 she was awarded the Patrick White Literary Award.
Richard Kline is middle-class, well-educated, well cared for and well paid, but he has suffered his entire life from chronic ennui. Sex, work, therapy, love and parenthood all help for a little while, but the boredom, the emptiness and the sense of suffering always return. When Richard encounters the Indian spiritual guru Sri Mari and is inexplicably moved to tears, he begins to believe in the possibility of fulfilment.
Making the spiritual quest of a self-absorbed, discontented, often smug and self-important man feel relevant and interesting to readers is a big task, but Amanda Lohrey engages from the outset. Her characteristically precise, sometimes startling language and use of a shifting point of view allow the reader to be both within and outside of Richard’s experience, to feel as he does and to think about what that feeling means. The result is a moving, challenging and ultimately unsettling novel, which uses one man’s search for meaning to ask big questions about how to live.
‘It’s ambitious subject matter, tackling the meaning of life head on, but Lohrey’s deft prose and sensitivity to the complexity of portraying her character’s inner life lends Kline’s spiritual quest a level of authenticity that feels utterly convincing. This is a fascinating read by one of Australia’s finest contemporary writers.’ Sally Keighery, Readings
‘[Amanda Lohrey] has an unusual capacity for intellectual and emotional empathy, and a language supple enough to express both.’ Morag Fraser, Sydney Morning Herald