Posted by: Lisa Hill | March 18, 2010

Sons of the Rumour (2009) by David Foster

Update (Thursday, in the small hours of the morning)

Finished.  Here’s my review.

Update (Saturday lunchtime)

It’s unputdownable.  I’m almost half way through.  If only I didn’t have to do the weekend washing….

Update (Friday night)

Don’t read the rubbish I wrote below, I’m only leaving it there as a lesson to myself not to be hasty and make a fool of myself.  Sons of the Rumour is an absolute hoot, and even though I’m only up to page 30, I can tell I’m going to like it.

It’s like James Joyce’s Ulysses, once you give in to the text and stop worrying about whether you understand it or not, it begins to make sense.  In its own kind of insane way, that is.  You simply enter into its absurdity and start to have fun.

More later, I want to read on!

(Thursday night) Intemperate remarks (best ignored) below:

As soon as I opened this book and saw the Table of Contents, I knew I was going to be out of my depth!  I knew already that David Foster is a postmodernist writer, and I knew that Sons of the Rumour was  going to be a challenge, but I thought I’d be able to manage it because I’d enjoyed other postmodern writers like Brian Castro and Gerald Murnane (without, I hasten to add, any pretensions towards understanding them).

The Table of Contents shows that Sons of the Rumour is structured like the classic Arabian Tales of the Thousand and One Nights.  There is an introductory chapter called Arabian Nights, and then eleven ‘Iranian Days’ alternating with chapters with names like The Fire Lamb, The Tears of the Fish, Cartouche for Chiseldorf and so on.   Ok, I thought, maybe I’d better have a look at The Tales of the Thousand and One Nights in much the same way as I read The Iliad before I read David Malouf’s Ransom.

So I downloaded a version of Tales onto the Kindle – which presented it to me in a truly horrible PDF file which I had to read using a landscape screen instead of portrait, which is strangely disorientating.  By the time I’d read all about the king who reacted to his wife’s infidelity by killing her and then hundreds of virgins, (a new one brought to him each night) I was not much disposed to read any more.  Beating wives to make them submit and brutality against women in general is not my preferred reading fare, but I plodded on through a couple of the tales that Scheherazade tells the king in order to save her life, enough to know that there were good reasons why I had never bothered to read this particular classic.

So why has Foster chosen it as a structure for his book?  I crawled the web for some help and found a reading group guide which tells me that Sons of the Rumour is an exploration of the conflict between Islam and Christianity.  Oh no, I thought, I’ve just finished reading about that in The Wasted Vigil.  I am not really in the mood for more of this, especially not if it’s obscure and difficult as well. I was in half a mind to tuck it back in the farthest reaches of the TBR, but since it’s been long-listed for the Miles Franklin, that would be a bit shabby towards readers of this blog.

Still, you may need to be patient, dear readers.  It’s over 400 pages long, and it doesn’t look like a bedtime read.  I may well be seduced into reading some more enticing titles that I discovered at the library and just work on it at weekends.

I shall do my best…

Author: David Foster
Title: Sons of the Rumour
Publisher: Picador (Pan Macmillan) 2009
ISBN: 9781405039581 (Hardback)
Source: Personal Library, purchased from Readings, $34.95.


  1. Hi Lisa!
    I am very keen to read the book but unfortunately neither the hard copy nor the kindle version is available for my country!!
    I am living in Iran(Persia) and I would be very happy if you send me that pdf version.
    I would appreciate your help!


    • I’m sorry, Mary, that can’t be done, even if I could do it, it would be illegal. It’s a breach of copyright for anyone to copy a whole book in that way, and it’s not fair to an author to copy his work without paying for it.
      Most online booksellers post everywhere in the world, or if not, perhaps a bookseller could do a special order for you?


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