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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clever, complex, and intriguing.
Writing one of the must unusual and imaginative books I've read in a long time, Flanagan presents a multi-leveled novel which is full of wry, sometimes hilarious, observations about people and history, at the same time that it is a scathing indictment of colonialism's cruelties and its prison system, in particular. Almost schizophrenic in its approach, the novel jerks the...
Published on 27 Nov 2002 by Mary Whipple

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Lost interest in mid-read
It seemed at first that this book would be a real find. The prose was elegant, literary,the story unusual, intriguing... all started well... and then after 200 pages or so the story lost the appeal it had had, it wasn't unusual anymore, it was weird!!And even grotesque at times. The flights of fancy became delirious and it was as though we couldn't rely on anything we...
Published on 5 May 2008 by H. Lacroix


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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A gem of a book, 3 July 2003
This review is from: Gould's Book of Fish (Paperback)
One of the joys of reading is browsing through book shops and ocassionally unearthing a gem. I managed that, with this book. I came across it without reading any reviews, or hyped up ravings. Put quite simply, I found this a really enjoyable book, sad in parts, but the humour of Billy Gould is always ever present. The story rattles along, and takes you with it.
Just great...
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12 of 19 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars PUFFED-UP PISCATORIAL PRETENSE, 31 Mar 2002
By 
.
Reading this book is the literary equivalent of consuming the flesh of the porcupine fish (fugu). It is near impossible to avoid the effects of its toxic content.
If you like joyless and bleak writing, that reads like a transcript of a very bad dream, this book is for you... When you read this book, you are immersed in a delusional and deranged mind-space.
Van Dieman Land (p.k.a. Tasmania) in the first half of the 19th Century provides one of the most gothic settings an author could ever want for a novel. The greatest Australian book, Marcus Clarke's "For the Term of His Natural Life" remains the definitive tale from this time and place. When you couple the British-Australian involuntary tourism system (ie. convict transportation 1788-1852) with the sad demise of the Tasmanian indigenous population you have very powerful ingredients with which to build a tale or two. Richard Flanagan in this novel takes us into every dark, dank cranny and crevice he believes this world was made of.
Flanagan's style shows schoolboyish delight when he wallows in words like "putrefying" and "purulent". He does this so convincingly, that repugnance and nausea could result in the squeamish reader. He unashamedly, takes us into a world which, in his own words, is an "alternative reality", with its sustained hallucinatory passages.
Towards the final chapters, Flanagan attempts to draw some meaning or lessons from this morass of splintered and sinister ugliness. In the sub-text, he is asking questions such as "should contemporary Australians carry the blame and guilt for the undoubted barbarisms committed nearly two centuries ago?" The whole dramatic locution is deflated when his earlier puffed-up strident hyperbolism is punctured in the later, more reflective passages. The blunt shtick of fashionable post-modern cultural relativism, when employed by Flanagan, leaves us answerless.
Having "dipped his quill in demons" the utility of this book remains in its role as a purgative for those who need such things. The following passage sums up Flanagan's lead character's approach to physical (and psychic?) self-help. "Vomiting is not a bad thing, it rids the body of unwanted fluids & humours & prevents the continuing horrors of crapulence and flatulence the following day".
Flanagan is constantly decrying what he considers the abuses of the "scientifick" approach to the natural world, which was at its zenith in the early 1800s. The founder of botany, Linnaeus, is dismissed as just a collector and classifier of flowers.
Flanagan's cleverness has him using "The Enlightenment" as a euphemism for sexual intercourse, and "The Great Philosopher" was a perfume bottle pressed into service as a dildo, which was in the shape of a bust of Voltaire.
The dilemma of all creative people is posited by Flanagan, when his protagonist Gould claims " I was hurt by this world into making my soul transparent for all the world to see", but the artist and writer's rewards flow when "... his preposterous opinions are deemed significant"

For the non-Australian reader, a dictionary of Aussie slang would be a handy companion to this book. Sayings such as "Cobbers aren't dobbers" could confound many [translation: true friends don't betray each other]. Flanagan even gives us some "Tasmanianisms" which many "Mainlanders" could struggle with. Try "deadflog" for size. It's word still used in Tasmania, which must have been first coined by the whippers or the whippees of 200 years ago.
It seems that all books in Flanagan's world, including "journals of record" are just "unreliable fairy tales". They are not "flotsam of the romantic past ... but evidence of a rotten present".
With his convict-era protagonist being a forger and his present day narrator being a faker of antique furniture (to be sold to gullible American tourists), the loop is closed when the author reveals unashamedly that everything in the book is built on manufactured "realities". This is all very clever, but at its nub, this book is no more than a charade or parlour game relying on verbal gymnastics, and hypnotic literary mirrors. This is a book posing as something of substance but when you've polished it off there is nothing left but a puff of insubstantial ephemera, and a very bad taste in your mouth.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A terrific book!!, 24 April 2002
By A Customer
Well deserved winner of the Commonwealth Prize for Fiction 2002, Flanagan surpasses himself in this third novel. With his trademark narrative panache, he takes the reader on a mystical, fantastical journey to hell and back again. He weaves historical fact with imaginitive detail to create a compelling tale of Nineteenth Century Tasmania.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A delightfully whimsical tale, 13 Feb 2012
By 
C. Campbell (UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Gould's Book of Fish (Paperback)
Part mariner's yarn, part psychedelic dream sequence, this book tells the story of a prisoner deported to Australia. Prettily written, this story is intriguing, blurring the boundary between truth and fantasy. Darkly witty and colourfully imagined Gould's tale is an epic one. Despite being witness to grand schemes, callous racism and inhuman torture he remains dedicated to his fish.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 10 Nov 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Great Book
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5 of 11 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Magic Realism - Really ?, 17 April 2002
By A Customer
Flanagan's "Fish" swims easily in that current pond of literary fashion called "magic realism". After finishing this book, most earth-based readers will agree that his writing has more to do with conjuring, than creativity.
The quasi-historical basis of this novel is built on the flimsiest of "factoids"...
The starting point for Gould's arrival in Van Dieman's Land (VDL) has him present at the founding of the first European settlement on the Island. Correct — but Flanagan then tells us this new colony was founded on the instructions of Britain's King George III. Any Australian amateur historian knows that VDL was colonized as an initiative of the Governor of New South Wales, who did this without the authority of the Crown. We all know history is a subjective discipline, but imagine our American friends' reactions if they read Paul Revere rode a donkey, not a horse.
Flanagan's use of literary surrealism takes us down into a world where even Hieronymous Bosch might have nightmares. This sort of stuff may have been in vogue back in the hippie-trippy 1960s — but now it hasn't even got retro appeal. At least with writers like Carlos Castenada, their characters had hallucinations that included some occasional lightness and brightness, but not with Flanagan's terminally depressed Vandiemonians...
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Gould's Book of Fish
Gould's Book of Fish by Richard Flanagan (Paperback - 15 Mar 2003)
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