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Gould's Book of Fish
by Richard Flanagan

Published: 2002-12-26
Paperback : 0 pages
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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
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Introduction

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?Year’s 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, Gould’s 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.

Editorial Review

Gould's Book of Fish, an extraordinary work of fact-based fiction by Tasmanian author Richard Flanagan (Death of a River Guide) is a journey through the fringe madness of Down Under colonialism. Set during the 1830s in a hellish island prison colony off the Tasmanian coast, the novel plucks a real-life thief and prisoner, English forger William Buelow Gould, from the pages of history to act as protagonist-narrator. Through Gould's unique capacity to blend hyperbole, hyperrealism, and self-effacing honesty, the reader acquires a shockingly clear picture of daily torment on the island. Yet more remarkable is Gould's portrait of bizarre ambitions among prison authorities to further principles of art and science amidst so much misery. Key to such plans is Gould's talent as a painter and illustrator. The compound's surgeon, nursing hopes of publishing a definitive guide to the island's fish, leans heavily on Gould's ability to record the taxonomy of various species. Though Gould accommodates his masters, the manuscript, in his hands, becomes testimony to their perverse dreams of civilization and his own quick-witted survival instincts. Throughout, Flanagan never loses the well-imagined voice of Gould's candor or the character's dense descriptive powers, talents that translate into a thrilling text that reads like a blend of Melville and Burgess. --Tom Keogh

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