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Gould's Book of Fish Hardcover – 1 Jun 2002

3.8 out of 5 stars 58 customer reviews

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Hardcover, 1 Jun 2002
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 404 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books; Main edition (1 Jun. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843540215
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843540212
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 3.3 x 23.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars 58 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 808,682 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description

Amazon Review

With a title such as Gould's Book of Fish, Richard Flanagan's Commonwealth Prize-winning third novel, expect something wonderfully slippery and self-conscious from one of the finest talents to have emerged from Australia since Peter Carey. Like Carey's True History of the Kelly Gang, Flanagan has written a history of a lost colonial voice--that of William Buelow Gould, a "pathetick forger, this drunkard trying his best to be on the make" who in the 1820s was sentenced to hard labour on the brutal penal colony of Sarah Island, "a silver sea monster of fable rearing its terrible head" off the coast of Van Dieman's Land--present-day Tasmania.

Finding himself at the mercy of a brutal and insane colonial regime that indulges its bizarre fantasies whatever the cost to the inmates, Gould finds himself commissioned to paint fish indigenous to the island. Gould's beautiful book of fish survives to this day, and his pictures are part of the exquisite design of Flanagan's book, which attempts to reproduce the original feel of Gould's book. But this is the novel's last connection to reality. Gould's fish, with their "coloring & surfaces & translucent fins suggest the very reason and riddle of life". Gould begins to realise that "a fish is a truth", and gradually his own pictures become a point of resistance to the ruthless classification and surveillance that characterises life on the penal colony. The book is a picaresque fantasy that encompasses art, science, empire and commerce, as well as sex, murder, liberation, castration, bestiality and a whole host of even more unlikely topics. The writing is extraordinary--luminous, sinewy, at times hilarious, often gruesome. Sometimes Flanagan goes too far, as his linguistic pyrotechnics feel like a parody of Sterne or Rabelais, but there can be no doubt that Gould's Book of Fish is a marvellously ambitious novel from a writer with enviable raw talent. --Jerry Brotton

Review

'A great book, by turns bawdy and pensive, moving and abrasive, visionary and squalid, apocalyptic and confessional.' -- Washington Post

'A seamless masterpiece' -- Independent on Sunday

'Gould's Book of Fish is a novel about fish the way Moby-Dick is a novel about whales, or Ulysses is a novel about the events of a single day' -- New York Times

‘A bewitching novel… [Flanagan’s] writing has the unmistakeable shimmer of literary star quality' -- John Dugdale, New Statesman

‘Ferocious in its anger, grotesque, sexy, funny, violent, startlingly beautiful and, above all, heartbreakingly sad...’ -- Robert MacFarlane, Observer

‘Gould’s Book of Fish is a masterpiece’ -- John Burnside, The Times

‘With some memorably eerie writing and cynical comedy… Gould’s Book of Fish gives us a fantasised version of Tasmania’s early history' -- Will Cohu, Daily Telegraph

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