Gould's Book of Fish: A Novel in Twelve Fish

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Grove Press, 2001 - Fiction - 404 pages
22 Reviews
The most remarkable novel yet from the internationally acclaimed author of Death of a River Guide and The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Gould's Book of Fish is a marvelous historical epic of nineteenth-century Australia, a world of convicts and colonists, thieves and catamites, whose bloody history is recorded in a very unusual taxonomy of fish. It is the kind of book that comes along once in a very great while -- a book of breathtaking writing and intellectual inquiry that stands out as one of the best novels of recent years. William Buelow Gould was a forger and thief sentenced to life imprisonment in a penal colony in Van Diemen's Land -- now Tasmania. After six months he escaped and boarded a whaler for the Americas, but before long his adventures landed him back in prison. The prison doctor Lempriere utilized Gould's painting talents to create an illustrated taxonomy of the country's exotic sea creatures, which Lempriere madly believed would ensure his place in history and the Royal Society. Gould's book was then lost and re-created, destroyed and hidden, and finally resurfaced in the present day, littered with Gould's scrawls recording his unutterably strange life -- part freewheeling picaresque, part Gothic horror -- and that of his country, a penal colony, settlement, and magical space populated by generals, visionaries, and madmen. This is an exquisitely produced book: each chapter is printed in a different colored ink to re-create its narrator's writing conditions, and each chapter opening will include a reproduction of the original full-color artwork by William Gould. Reminiscent of the richness and historical audacity of Jeanette Winterson's The Passion, Jim Crace'sQuarantine, and Thomas Pynchon's Mason and Dixon, Gould's Book of Fish is a tour de force that interrogates the reliability of history and science, and the substance of artistic creation. "An exuberant, splendidly written, hugely ambitious work..." -- Brian Matthews, Australian Book Review

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User Review  - Amzzz - LibraryThing

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. Read full review

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User Review  - Mrs_McGreevy - LibraryThing

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 ... Read full review

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About the author (2001)

Richard Flanagan was born in Longford, Tasmania, in 1961. He received a Master of Letters degree from Oxford University. His first novel, Death of a River Guide, won Australia's National Fiction Award. His works include The Sound of One Hand Clapping, The Unknown Terrorist, and four history books. He has received numerous awards including the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Gould's Book of Fish, the 2011 Tasmania Book Prize for Wanting, and the 2014 Man Booker Prize for The Narrow Road to the Deep North. He directed a feature film version of The Sound of One Hand Clapping. He was also shortlisted for the UK Indie Booksellers Award with The Narrow Road to the Deep North. This same title was won the Margaret Scott Prize for best book by a Tasmanian writer 2015. The University of Melbourne has appointed him as the Boisbouvier Founding Chair in Australian Literature at the University of Melbourne, a new professorship to 'advance the teaching, understanding and public appreciation of Australian literature'.

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