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First Person : From the winner of the Man Booker Prize - Richard Flanagan

First Person

From the winner of the Man Booker Prize

Hardcover Published: 2nd October 2017
ISBN: 9780143787242
Number Of Pages: 400

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The new novel from Australia's Booker Prize winning author Richard Flanagan.

What is the truth? In this blistering story of a ghostwriter haunted by his demonic subject, the Man Booker Prize winner turns to lies, crime and literature with devastating effect

Kif Kehlmann, a young penniless writer, is rung in the middle of the night by the notorious con man and corporate criminal, Siegfried Heidl. About to go to trial for defrauding the banks of $700 million, Heidl offers Kehlmann the job of ghostwriting his memoir. He has six weeks to write the book, for which he’ll be paid $10,000.

But as the writing gets under way, Kehlmann begins to fear that he is being corrupted by Heidl. As the deadline draws closer, he becomes ever more unsure if he is ghostwriting a memoir, or if Heidl is rewriting him – his life, his future. Everything that was certain grows uncertain as he begins to wonder: who is Siegfried Heidl – and who is Kif Kehlmann?

As time runs out, one question looms above all others: what is the truth?

By turns compelling, comic, and chilling, this is a haunting journey into the heart of our age.

Review By Ben Hunter

If you win the Man Booker prize, as Richard Flanagan has, there's bound to be some serious pressure on you as you write your next novel. Everyone hates pressure, but some writers thrive on the stuff. First Person is certainly the novel of an author who's thriving.

Kif Kehlmann is a destitute Tasmanian writer who dreams of becoming an author. Siegfried Heidl is a headline-making white collar conman who employs Kif, through a major publisher, to ghostwrite his autobiography. It's a premise drawn from Flanagan's own experience ghostwriting for real life con-man John Friedrich at the dawn of the 90s. Truth rings out from his description of the troubled publishing landscape of the time, sounding a pure comic note in an otherwise dark and psychological narrative.

Kehlmann is given six weeks to write his book and Heidl is doggedly determined to not give away any facts of his underworld life. Kehlmann is both naive and pure while his subject is a deeply corrupting force. Flanagan's portrayal of Heidl seeping into the very core of Kehlmann makes for compelling reading.

Through First Person, Flanagan seriously questions the possibility of there being any truth in literature. It's an engaging and timely conundrum to dwell on and Flanagan's intelligent writing makes it sparkle. This book shows that he's every bit deserving of his accolades.


Superbly written. You feel like the character himself


I was fascinated. Hooked in just like the protagonist.



Without question the worst book I have ever read


A truly appalling book and I can't think why I finished it. There must have been something in my persona that could relate to the author's nihilism. I ashamed to say. While Flanagan's command of language is outstanding, it just makes it so much more disappointing that he's used it in this evil way. The reader keeps thinking there must be light at the end of the tunnel: that the next chapter must be brighter and more optimistic. I'll save you the effort. It isn't. It just gets worse and worse, plumbing depths of depravity you wouldn't think possible. I won't be giving this book to a charity shop. I need to be sure it's destroyed.

Sydney, Australia


Not for me


I just couldn't engage with the story. I've read his previous and enjoyed it but not this one! Dry & introspective

Otago, NZ


Is it totally fiction


A great read. Considering the author's history with this storyline, I wonder how much is lived experience. It's a great insight into the frustration of not controlling your own destiny. Highly recommended

Bacchus Marsh


First Person

3.0 4


ISBN: 9780143787242
ISBN-10: 0143787241
Audience: General
Format: Hardcover
Language: English
Number Of Pages: 400
Published: 2nd October 2017
Publisher: Random House Australia
Country of Publication: AU
Dimensions (cm): 24.1 x 16.3  x 4.1
Weight (kg): 0.75

Richard Flanagan

About the Author

Richard Flanagan was born in Longford, Tasmania, in 1961. He is descended from Irish convicts transported to Van Diemen’s Land in the 1840s. His father is a survivor of the Burma Death Railway. One of his three brothers is Australian Rules football journalist Martin Flanagan. He grew up in the remote mining town of Rosebery on Tasmania’s western coast.

His novels, Death Of A River Guide, The Sound Of One Hand Clapping, Gould’s Book Of Fish, The Unknown Terrorist, Wanting and The Narrow Road to the Deep North have received numerous honours and are published in twenty-six countries.

He directed a feature film version of The Sound Of One Hand Clapping in 1998. A collection of his essays is published as And What Do You Do, Mr Gable?

The Narrow Road to the Deep North won the 2014 Man Booker Prize for Fiction.

Visit Richard Flanagan's Booktopia Author Page

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