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Gould's Book of Fish by Richard Flanagan

Gould's Book of Fish (2001)

by Richard Flanagan

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,304375,994 (3.71)97
  1. 00
    The Boy Who Swam with Piranhas by David Almond (Moomin_Mama)
    Moomin_Mama: For anyone who couldn't get through this but wants something similarly fishy and surreal (yes, it's a kid's book but Gould would approve of the fishy theme). I loved both.
  2. 00
    Wanting by Richard Flanagan (merry10)

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» See also 97 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
I loved the writing but this book was just too disjointed for me. Perhaps I'll read it again someday. Having read some other reviews I now realize there is a historical basis for the story. ( )
  Eye_Gee | May 8, 2017 |
Apparently this book is "a masterpiece" but it really didn't appeal to me. Perhaps it was because I listened on Audiobook and therefore missed some of the language and subtleties, but I had no interest in any of the characters, nor in what happened, real or imagined. ( )
  Amzzz | Jan 9, 2017 |
A prisoner locked in a cell carved into a cliff that overlooks the sea (and floods when the tide is high) is assigned to illustrate a book about the sea life found in the area. What follows are brutal descriptions of prison life as well as dreamy stories recounted by the prisoner, each in a different color of ink. Illustrations of the sea life are included. ( )
  Mrs_McGreevy | Nov 17, 2016 |
(11) This was just terrible. I can't believe I even finished it. So I will give it its due and the label 'literary' fiction, but that does not have to mean I like it. Ostensibly about a prisoner on Tasmania in the 1800's when British convicts were sent to Australia instead of to the gallows. According to Billy Gould perhaps the gallows would have been better as he describes a fantastical evil world where he spends his time . . . painting fish. WTF. I think there was a bigger allegorical message here but for the life of me, I could not suss it out.

The writing verged on hysterical, nonsensical at times. While there was humor, it was lewd and mostly related to excrement which ultimately is only funny to little boys over the long haul. It seemed like half of the book Flanagan was like an overgrown boy trying to just gross the reader out with high flung prose regarding juvenile topics. I suppose his powers of description should be commended but the story-telling was simply abysmal.

I very rarely give such a low rating, especially to a book that seems to garner such praise. I indeed liked and admired the writing in 'The Narrow Road to the Deep North,' and was looking forward to another gratifying albeit difficult read. But this was just difficult and unrewarding. I slogged through, trying my hardest not to skim. I just kept hoping that things would come together and begin to make sense. But, nope - continued pretentious twaddle to the ridiculous end.

I cannot recommend this. It made very little sense to me and was just distasteful. Sorry. ( )
  jhowell | Mar 13, 2016 |
Good author, an interesting plot idea, wonderful printing & production - paper, coloured printing etc. But after all that, this has to be one of the worst books ever - unreadable.
Read Sept 2007 ( )
  mbmackay | Dec 6, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 36 (next | show all)
Richard Flanagan schreef een sublieme roman die voor de eretitel in aanmerking komt en die de verbeelding inzet tegen de misdaden van de geschiedenis.
Gould's Book of Fish van Richard Flanagan, is echter alles wat een Great Australian Novel kan zijn, en nog veel meer.
Gould's Book of Fish is een verhaal dat Rabelais, Sterne, García Márquez, Swift, Dickens, Joyce, Melville, Walt Whitman en nog heel wat andere schrijvers in herinnering brengt, in zijn uitbundigheid, humor, archaïsche verteltrant en ouderwetse horror.
added by sneuper | editNRC Handelsblad, Corine Vloet (Aug 23, 2002)
Of the many extraordinary aspects of this novel, the most immediately obvious is its appearance.
In its persistent concern with transformations, melding and minglings, and their opposites - fixity, category and class - Gould's Book of Fish is reminiscent of Lewis Carroll's Alice books, with their endless transmogrifications, their portmanteau creatures and their jumps of scale and size.
What makes Gould's Book of Fish remarkable is its reconciliation of metafictionality with humanity. For while it is pervasively self-conscious, it is also a humanly troubled book: ferocious in its anger, grotesque, sexy, funny, violent, startlingly beautiful and, perhaps above all, heartbreakingly sad.
Flanagan has written a book whose uniqueness mirrors its principal theme - the dangers of classification. I urge you to read it.

» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Richard Flanaganprimary authorall editionscalculated
Blommesteijn, AnkieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brinkman, SophieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vastbinder, MiekeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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My mother is a fish.
~ William Faulkner
First words
My wonder upon discovering the Book of Fish remains with me yet, luminous as the phosphorescent marbling that seized my eyes that strange morning; glittering as those eerie swirls that coloured my mind and enchanted my soul--which there and then began the process of unravelling my heart and, worse still, my life into the poor, scraggy skein that is this story you are about to read.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0802139590, Paperback)

Gould's Book of Fish, an extraordinary work of fact-based fiction by Tasmanian author Richard Flanagan (Death of a River Guide) is a journey through the fringe madness of Down Under colonialism. Set during the 1830s in a hellish island prison colony off the Tasmanian coast, the novel plucks a real-life thief and prisoner, English forger William Buelow Gould, from the pages of history to act as protagonist-narrator. Through Gould's unique capacity to blend hyperbole, hyperrealism, and self-effacing honesty, the reader acquires a shockingly clear picture of daily torment on the island. Yet more remarkable is Gould's portrait of bizarre ambitions among prison authorities to further principles of art and science amidst so much misery. Key to such plans is Gould's talent as a painter and illustrator. The compound's surgeon, nursing hopes of publishing a definitive guide to the island's fish, leans heavily on Gould's ability to record the taxonomy of various species. Though Gould accommodates his masters, the manuscript, in his hands, becomes testimony to their perverse dreams of civilization and his own quick-witted survival instincts. Throughout, Flanagan never loses the well-imagined voice of Gould's candor or the character's dense descriptive powers, talents that translate into a thrilling text that reads like a blend of Melville and Burgess. --Tom Keogh

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:51 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Once upon a time that was called 1828, before all the fishes in the sea and all the living things on the land were destroyed, there was a man named Willian Buelow Gould, a white convict who fell in love with a black woman and discovered too late that to love is not safe. Silly Billy Gould, invader of Australia, liar, murderer and forger, condemned to most feared penal colony in the British Empire and there ordered to paint a book of fish.… (more)

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