Gould's Book of Fish

Gould's Book of Fish

3.71 (4,668 ratings by Goodreads)
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Once upon a time that was called 1828, before all the living things on the land and the fishes in the sea were destroyed, there was a man named William Buelow Gould, a convict in Van Dieman's Land who fell in love with a black woman and discovered too late that to love is not safe. Silly Billy Gould, invader of Australia, liar, murderer, forger, fantasist, condemned to live in the most brutal penal colony in the British Empire, and there ordered to paint a book of fish. Once upon a time, miraculous things happened....
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Product details

  • Paperback | 464 pages
  • 129 x 198 x 28mm | 315g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • Main
  • 1843540703
  • 9781843540700
  • 75,404

Review quote

A seamless masterpiece * Peter Carty, Independent on Sunday * I urge you to read it * Robert MacFarlane, Observer * A truly great book that will be read by serious people long after most of the literary fiction of our time is forgotten * Richard Holloway, Sunday Herald * A masterpiece * John Burnside, The Times * Hugely original * Alex Clark, The Guardian * Gould's Book of Fish is a novel about fish the way Ulysses is a novel about the events of a single day * Michiko Kakutani, New York Times * A strange and amazing book * Alex Linklater, Prospect *
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About Richard Flanagan

Richard Flanagan is the author of three novels which have all been published to international acclaim: Death of a River Guide, The Sound of One Hand Clapping and Gould's Book of Fish. His latest novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North won the Man Booker Prize 2014. He lives with his family in West Hobart, Tasmania.
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Rating details

4,668 ratings
3.71 out of 5 stars
5 29% (1,348)
4 34% (1,564)
3 22% (1,031)
2 10% (482)
1 5% (243)

Our customer reviews

Gould's Book of Fish is the third book by Australian author, Richard Flanagan. The Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts, in the State Library of Tasmania holds a book titled "Sketchbook of fishes" which features 36 watercolour on paper sketches of marine life painted by convict William Buelow Gould at Macquarie Harbour Penal Station in Van Dieman's Land (Tasmania) around 1832. Whilst Flanagan's book contains twelve of those sketches, that is where the resemblance ends. Flanagan takes some historical figures (Gould, Governor Arthur, Gentleman Bushranger Matthew Brady, Ackermann) and facts (penal settlement at Sarah Island in Macquarie Harbour, Gould's "Sketchbook of fishes") and builds around these a fantastic tale of megalomania on a remote convict island. It is a rewriting by a person of questionable sanity (Sid Hammet) of a book produced by a 19th century convict of questionable sanity (Gould) containing an account of Gould's life which experts deem to be of questionable authenticity, and of which Gould himself states that it is highly subjective and may not be true. Which is probably quite appropriate as the main characters (Gould and Hammet) are forgers. Flanagan includes some delightful imagery ".....some brittle cotton threads cheerily jutting out like Great Aunt Maisie's stubble, without shame and with a certain archaic vigour." It was interesting to see how Flanagan incorporated each of the fish into the story. The plot is highly imaginative, brought to life with rich text and realistic dialogue, and the result is somewhat surreal. A powerful read.show more
by Marianne Vincent
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