Synopses & Reviews
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 that combines magical realism, Joycean language, and Melvillian intonations to examine the legacy of colonialism through the story of a nineteenth-century forger. . . . [It] turns out to be as inventive and visionary in its reimagination ofhistory as [Toni] Morrison's masterwork, Beloved.
"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
"[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)
"Carefully crafted and allusive, this blazing portrait of Australia's colonial past will surely spread Flanagan's reputation among American readers." Publishers Weekly
"[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