Thursday, 2 July 2015

Review: Gould's Book of Fish by Richard Flanagan

The brutal history of European settlement in Tasmania (or Van Diemen's Land,) and the surprising true story of an artist and convict who just could not keep himself out of trouble are the subject of this modern classic by one of Australia's most beloved authors. William Buelow Gould is best remembered in Australian history for his watercolour paintings of fish. He was also a man who could not keep out of trouble, even when he was trying to better himself and it is this side of the man that Flanagan brings to life. Flanagan's Gould is a larrikin and an unreliable narrator who tells us a great yarn, while also examining some brutal truths about history, the treatment of the traditional owners of the land and, surprisingly, love.

The novel is told in twelve chapters, or twelve fish, as each one is devoted to one fish or one watercolour painting. (And yes, that really is one of Gould's paintings on the front cover.)

I cannot say that I loved the story as much as I did enjoy the cleverness of it and trying to put it all together, trying to understand what it all meant, and occasionally coming up with nothing and sometimes coming up with every theory imaginable. Actually, at times, it near drove me insane. 

Recommended to readers who want something a bit deeper.

This book was read as part of the Aussie Author Challenge