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Gould's Book of Fish by Richard Flanagan
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Gould's Book of Fish (2001)

by Richard Flanagan

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,414398,411 (3.68)103
Once upon a time that was called 1828, before all the living things on the land and the fishes in the sea were destroyed, there was a man named William Buelow Gould, a convict in Van Dieman's Land 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, forger, fantasist, condemned to live in the most brutal penal colony in the British Empire, and there ordered to paint a book of fish. Once upon a time, miraculous things happened.… (more)
  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 103 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 38 (next | show all)
3.3 Enjoyable and surprising, this is one of those books that convince you the world is a stranger and more wonderful place than you imagined. The only real imperfect is that Peter Carey (and, to a lesser extent, Danielewski) has covered almost all this ground better. Worth it for the coda. ( )
  Eoin | Jun 3, 2019 |
This is a tragicomic, grotesque, fantasmagoric story of a convict in an early 19th century prison colony on Sarah Island in Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania). It's an effective approach for showing the horror of the genocide of the native population, the rape of the land, and the lunacy of Rabelaisian-like British characters untethered from the (relative) sanity of their home society, without making readers want to kill themselves after reading it.

If I saw this description before reading the book, I'd never have picked it up, but I'm glad I did. What kept me reading was the genius of the writing. It's hard to pick one sample, but here's one that speaks to the nature of the book itself:

Because, you see, it sometimes seems so elusive, this book, a series of veils, each of which must be lifted and parted to reveal only another of its kind, to arrive finally at emptiness, a lack of words, at the sound of the sea, of the great Indian Ocean through which I see in my mind's eye Gould now advancing towards Sarah Island, now receding; that sound, that sight, slowly pulsing in and out, in and out.
. ( )
  badube | Mar 6, 2019 |
Strange ( )
  ibkennedy | Oct 13, 2017 |
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 |
Showing 1-5 of 38 (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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Epigraph
My mother is a fish.
~ William Faulkner
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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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