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Gould's Book of Fish: A Novel in 12 Fish

by

Gould's Book of Fish: A Novel in 12 Fish Cover

 

Staff Pick

It doesn't really have that much to do with fish. They're just an excuse for William Gould to tell his life story as an inmate in a penal colony on Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania). Shocking in its brutality and touching in its humanity, this is an ambitious and cleverly crafted novel. Flanagan's virtuoso skills weave a complex tale, demonstrating that rare ability to not only tell a story, but also to explore the creation and reading of narratives.
Recommended by Gerry, Powells.com

It doesn't really have that much to do with fish. They're just an excuse for William Gould to tell his life story as an inmate in a penal colony on Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania). Shocking in its brutality and touching in its humanity, this is an ambitious and cleverly crafted novel. Flanagan's virtuoso skills weave a complex tale, demonstrating that rare ability to not only tell a story, but also to explore the creation and reading of narratives.
Recommended by Gerry, Powells.com

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Published in hardcover to outstanding acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic, and winner of the prestigious Commonwealth Writers Prize, Gould's Book of Fish is a marvelously imagined 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. Widely hailed as a masterpiece and a work of genius, it stands out as one of the best novels of recent years.

Billy 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 utilizes Gould's painting talents to create an illustrated taxonomy of the country's exotic sea creatures, which Lempriere madly believes will assure his place in history and the Royal Society. Lost and re-created, destroyed and hidden, Gould's book finally resurfaces in the present day littered with scrawls recording his unutterably strange life — part freewheeling picaresque, part tragicomedy — and that of his country, a penal colony, settlement, and magical space populated by generals, visionaries, and madmen.

Gould's Book of Fish is a tour de force that questions the reliability of history and science, and the substance of artistic creation.

Review:

"Richard Flanagan has written a book that's THIS BIG, surely the slipperiest, most outrageous novel of the year. Who else would dare start with a 40-page preface that describes the story we're about to read as wondrous, luminous, and captivating?...The story Gould tells of the land way down under is absolutely captivating. But be forewarned, it's also scatological and shockingly violent ? a cringing nightmare inversion of the elegant British society that constructed this place....The current is dangerously strong here, but the water is irresistible, and once again Flanagan is a death-defying guide." Ron Charles, The Christian Science Monitor (read the entire CSM review)

Review:

"Flanagan's masterful balancing act between what we endure and where we prevail ricochets page-to-page at breakneck read with passion and compassion, from the rhapsodic to Rabelaisian." Gordon Hauptfleisch, San Diego Union-Tribune

Review:

"Remarkable...A serene, chilling vision of human life as comparable to the life of fish, 'swimming in vast coldness, alone.'" The New Yorker

Review:

"A work of significant genius...terrifying, exhilarating, and amazingly beautiful." E. William Smethurst, Jr., Chicago Tribune

Review:

"A whiff of magical realism and a generous abundance of expressionistic hyperbole create the uniquely suprareal texture of this wonderful third novel from the prizewinning Australian author....Fascinating work, and very much Flanagan's best yet." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"[G]orgeously written....Readers will be...entranced with this richly detailed work that calls attention to a major new talent." Brendan Dowling, Booklist (starred review)

Review:

"Gould's Book of Fish...is ...by turns bawdy and pensive, moving and abrasive, visionary and squalid, apocalyptic and confessional." Chris Lehmann, The Washington Post Book World

Review:

"Flanagan's darkly humorous tale is impressive in its ability to cross seamlessly the borders between the realistic and fantastic and carries a wonderful sense of drama and satisfying closure. The unique story is accompanied by the book's novel packaging." Library Journal

Review:

"Carefully crafted and allusive, this blazing portrait of Australia's colonial past will surely spread Flanagan's reputation among American readers." Publishers Weekly

Review:

"[A] huge, phantasmagorical work that combines magical realism, Joycean language and Melvillian intonations...and turns out to be as inventive and visionary in its reimagination of history as [Toni] Morrison's masterwork, Beloved." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times

Synopsis:

Published in hardcover to outstanding acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic, and winner of the prestigious Commonwealth Writers Prize, Gould's Book of Fish is a marvelously imagined 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. Widely hailed as a masterpiece and a work of genius, it stands out as one of the best novels of recent years. Billy 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 utilizes Gould's painting talents to create an illustrated taxonomy of the country's exotic sea creatures, which Lempriere madly believes will assure his place in history and the Royal Society. Lost and re-created, destroyed and hidden, Gould's book finally resurfaces in the present day littered with scrawls recording his unutterably strange life — part freewheeling picaresque, part tragicomedy — and that of his country, a penal colony, settlement, and magical space populated by generals, visionaries, and madmen. Gould's Book of Fish is a tour de force that questions the reliability of history and science, and the substance of artistic creation. Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times called it "a huge, phantasmagorical work ... as inventive and visionary in its reimagination of history as [Toni] Morrison's masterwork, Beloved." "Gould's Book of Fish ...is ... by turns bawdy and pensive, moving and abrasive, visionary and squalid, apocalyptic and confessional." — Chris Lehmann, The Washington Post Book World "Flanagan's masterful balancing act between what we endure and where we prevail ricochets page-to-page at breakneck read with passion and compassion, from the rhapsodic to Rabelaisian." — Gordon Hauptfleisch, San Diego Union-Tribune "Remarkable ... A serene, chilling vision of human life as comparable to the life of fish, 'swimming in vast coldness, alone.'" — The New Yorker "A work of significant genius ... terrifying, exhilarating, and amazingly beautiful." — E. William Smethurst, Jr., Chicago Tribune "Flanagan ... leaps beyond his country's history toward the biggest questions that love and language can pose." — Ron Charles, The Christian Science Monitor

Synopsis:

Winner of the Commonwealth Prize

New York Times Book Review—Notable Fiction 2002

Entertainment Weekly—Best Fiction of 2002

Los Angeles Times Book Review—Best of the Best 2002

Washington Post Book World—Raves 2002

Chicago Tribune—Favorite Books of 2002

Christian Science Monitor—Best Books 2002

Publishers Weekly—Best Books of 2002

The Cleveland Plain Dealer—Years Best Books

Minneapolis Star Tribune—Standout Books of 2002

Once upon a time, when the earth was still young, before the fish in the sea and all the living things on land began to be destroyed, a man named William Buelow Gould was sentenced to life imprisonment at the most feared penal colony in the British Empire, and there ordered to paint a book of fish. He fell in love with the black mistress of the warder and discovered too late that to love is not safe; he attempted to keep a record of the strange reality he saw in prison, only to realize that history is not written by those who are ruled.

Acclaimed as a masterpiece around the world, Goulds Book of Fish is at once a marvelously imagined epic of nineteenth-century Australia and a contemporary fable, a tale of horror, and a celebration of love, all transformed by a convict painter into pictures of fish.

What Our Readers Are Saying

Add a comment for a chance to win!
Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

Lynne Perednia, August 19, 2009 (view all comments by Lynne Perednia)
With a narrator quite unlike any other and a story that weaves in and out of the fabulous, plus incredible use of typeface styles and colors, Gould's Book of Fish is both fable and history. Worth reading more than once.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(3 of 5 readers found this comment helpful)

Product Details

ISBN:
9780802139597
Author:
Flanagan, Richard
Publisher:
Grove/Atlantic
Location:
New York
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Historical - General
Subject:
Australia
Subject:
Painters
Subject:
Prisoners
Subject:
Penal colonies
Subject:
Biographical fiction
Subject:
Prisoners as artists.
Subject:
Fishes in art.
Subject:
Marine animals in art.
Subject:
FICTION / Literary
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
First Trade Paper Edition
Series Volume:
108-52
Publication Date:
20021231
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
416
Dimensions:
9 x 5.25 in 17.5 oz

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Oceania

Gould's Book of Fish: A Novel in 12 Fish New Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$16.00 In Stock
Product details 416 pages Grove/Atlantic - English 9780802139597 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

It doesn't really have that much to do with fish. They're just an excuse for William Gould to tell his life story as an inmate in a penal colony on Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania). Shocking in its brutality and touching in its humanity, this is an ambitious and cleverly crafted novel. Flanagan's virtuoso skills weave a complex tale, demonstrating that rare ability to not only tell a story, but also to explore the creation and reading of narratives.

"Staff Pick" by ,

It doesn't really have that much to do with fish. They're just an excuse for William Gould to tell his life story as an inmate in a penal colony on Van Diemen's Land (now Tasmania). Shocking in its brutality and touching in its humanity, this is an ambitious and cleverly crafted novel. Flanagan's virtuoso skills weave a complex tale, demonstrating that rare ability to not only tell a story, but also to explore the creation and reading of narratives.

"Review" by , "Richard Flanagan has written a book that's THIS BIG, surely the slipperiest, most outrageous novel of the year. Who else would dare start with a 40-page preface that describes the story we're about to read as wondrous, luminous, and captivating?...The story Gould tells of the land way down under is absolutely captivating. But be forewarned, it's also scatological and shockingly violent ? a cringing nightmare inversion of the elegant British society that constructed this place....The current is dangerously strong here, but the water is irresistible, and once again Flanagan is a death-defying guide." (read the entire CSM review)
"Review" by , "Flanagan's masterful balancing act between what we endure and where we prevail ricochets page-to-page at breakneck read with passion and compassion, from the rhapsodic to Rabelaisian."
"Review" by , "Remarkable...A serene, chilling vision of human life as comparable to the life of fish, 'swimming in vast coldness, alone.'"
"Review" by , "A work of significant genius...terrifying, exhilarating, and amazingly beautiful."
"Review" by , "A whiff of magical realism and a generous abundance of expressionistic hyperbole create the uniquely suprareal texture of this wonderful third novel from the prizewinning Australian author....Fascinating work, and very much Flanagan's best yet."
"Review" by , "[G]orgeously written....Readers will be...entranced with this richly detailed work that calls attention to a major new talent."
"Review" by , "Gould's Book of Fish...is ...by turns bawdy and pensive, moving and abrasive, visionary and squalid, apocalyptic and confessional."
"Review" by , "Flanagan's darkly humorous tale is impressive in its ability to cross seamlessly the borders between the realistic and fantastic and carries a wonderful sense of drama and satisfying closure. The unique story is accompanied by the book's novel packaging."
"Review" by , "Carefully crafted and allusive, this blazing portrait of Australia's colonial past will surely spread Flanagan's reputation among American readers."
"Review" by , "[A] huge, phantasmagorical work that combines magical realism, Joycean language and Melvillian intonations...and turns out to be as inventive and visionary in its reimagination of history as [Toni] Morrison's masterwork, Beloved."
"Synopsis" by ,
Published in hardcover to outstanding acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic, and winner of the prestigious Commonwealth Writers Prize, Gould's Book of Fish is a marvelously imagined 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. Widely hailed as a masterpiece and a work of genius, it stands out as one of the best novels of recent years. Billy 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 utilizes Gould's painting talents to create an illustrated taxonomy of the country's exotic sea creatures, which Lempriere madly believes will assure his place in history and the Royal Society. Lost and re-created, destroyed and hidden, Gould's book finally resurfaces in the present day littered with scrawls recording his unutterably strange life — part freewheeling picaresque, part tragicomedy — and that of his country, a penal colony, settlement, and magical space populated by generals, visionaries, and madmen. Gould's Book of Fish is a tour de force that questions the reliability of history and science, and the substance of artistic creation. Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times called it "a huge, phantasmagorical work ... as inventive and visionary in its reimagination of history as [Toni] Morrison's masterwork, Beloved." "Gould's Book of Fish ...is ... by turns bawdy and pensive, moving and abrasive, visionary and squalid, apocalyptic and confessional." — Chris Lehmann, The Washington Post Book World "Flanagan's masterful balancing act between what we endure and where we prevail ricochets page-to-page at breakneck read with passion and compassion, from the rhapsodic to Rabelaisian." — Gordon Hauptfleisch, San Diego Union-Tribune "Remarkable ... A serene, chilling vision of human life as comparable to the life of fish, 'swimming in vast coldness, alone.'" — The New Yorker "A work of significant genius ... terrifying, exhilarating, and amazingly beautiful." — E. William Smethurst, Jr., Chicago Tribune "Flanagan ... leaps beyond his country's history toward the biggest questions that love and language can pose." — Ron Charles, The Christian Science Monitor
"Synopsis" by ,
Winner of the Commonwealth Prize

New York Times Book Review—Notable Fiction 2002

Entertainment Weekly—Best Fiction of 2002

Los Angeles Times Book Review—Best of the Best 2002

Washington Post Book World—Raves 2002

Chicago Tribune—Favorite Books of 2002

Christian Science Monitor—Best Books 2002

Publishers Weekly—Best Books of 2002

The Cleveland Plain Dealer—Years Best Books

Minneapolis Star Tribune—Standout Books of 2002

Once upon a time, when the earth was still young, before the fish in the sea and all the living things on land began to be destroyed, a man named William Buelow Gould was sentenced to life imprisonment at the most feared penal colony in the British Empire, and there ordered to paint a book of fish. He fell in love with the black mistress of the warder and discovered too late that to love is not safe; he attempted to keep a record of the strange reality he saw in prison, only to realize that history is not written by those who are ruled.

Acclaimed as a masterpiece around the world, Goulds Book of Fish is at once a marvelously imagined epic of nineteenth-century Australia and a contemporary fable, a tale of horror, and a celebration of love, all transformed by a convict painter into pictures of fish.

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