Cover image for Gould's book of fish : a novel in twelve fish
Gould's book of fish : a novel in twelve fish
Flanagan, Richard, 1961-
Personal Author:
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Grove Press, 2002.

Physical Description:
404 pages : color illustrations ; 24 cm
Geographic Term:
Format :


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X Adult Fiction Central Library

On Order



The latest novel from internationally renowned author Flanagan. A rich tragicomic saga of art, fish, and the founding of new worlds. Illustrations.

Author Notes

Richard Flanagan was born in Longford, Tasmania, in 1961. He received a Master of Letters degree from Oxford University. His first novel, Death of a River Guide, won Australia's National Fiction Award. His works include The Sound of One Hand Clapping, The Unknown Terrorist, and four history books. He has received numerous awards including the Commonwealth Writers Prize for Gould's Book of Fish, the 2011 Tasmania Book Prize for Wanting, and the 2014 Man Booker Prize for The Narrow Road to the Deep North. He directed a feature film version of The Sound of One Hand Clapping. He was also shortlisted for the UK Indie Booksellers Award with The Narrow Road to the Deep North. This same title was won the Margaret Scott Prize for best book by a Tasmanian writer 2015. In 2018, The Narrow Road to the Deep North will be made into an international television series. The University of Melbourne has appointed him as the Boisbouvier Founding Chair in Australian Literature at the University of Melbourne, a new professorship to 'advance the teaching, understanding and public appreciation of Australian literature'.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

This gorgeously written novel will bring deserved attention to Flanagan, well known in his native Tasmania for his two previous novels. Here, he tells the story of William Buelow Gould, a convict sent to a penal colony in Van Diemen's Land in the nineteenth century. Gould recounts his life story as he paints the island's native fish, a task given him by the fatuous prison doctor, convinced that such a taxonomic achievement will launch him into British society. As he completes each painting, Gould's story dips into his past, recalling his grim childhood and ill-fated life of crime. Taken from historical accounts of the real-life Gould, Flanagan's novel vividly re-creates the penal colony's conditions and its eccentric cast of characters. Gould's story is framed by the tale of the present-day writer (somewhat of a raconteur himself), who discovers Gould's collection in an antique store and soon becomes obsessed with the multifaceted text. Readers will be similarly entranced with this richly detailed work that calls attention to a major new talent. Brendan Dowling.

Publisher's Weekly Review

Flanagan (The Sound of One Hand Clapping) has written a Tasmanian version of Rimbaud's Season in Hell, a mesmerizing portrait of human abjection and sometimes elation set in a 19th-century Down Under penal colony. A small-time forger of antiques in contemporary Tasmania finds a mysterious illustrated manuscript that recounts in harrowing detail the rise and fall of a convict state on Sarah Island, off the Tasmanian coast, in the 1830s. The text is penned by William Gould, a forger and thief (and an actual 19th-century convict) shipped from England to a Tasmanian prison run as a private kingdom by the Commandant, a lunatic tyrant in a gold mask rumored to have been a convict himself. The prison world consists of a lower caste of convicts tormented with lengthy floggings, vile food and various mechanical torture devices by a small number of officers and officials. Gould finagles his way into the good graces of the island surgeon, Tobias Achilles Lempriere, a fat fanatic of natural science, who has Gould paint scientific illustrations of fish, with the goal of publishing the definitive ichthyological work on Sarah Island species. In Gould's hands, however, the taxonomy of fish becomes his testimony to the bizarre perversion of Europe's technology and art wrought by the Commandant's mad ambitions. Civilization, in this inverted world, creates moral wilderness; science creates lies. Carefully crafted and allusive, this blazing portrait of Australia's colonial past will surely spread Flanagan's reputation among American readers. (Apr.) FYI: Gould's Book of Fish looks as good as it reads: it's printed in six different ink colors (to match how Gould wrote in red, with his blood; in violet, from the spines of a sea urchin; etc., and illustrated with paintings by the real William Gould. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Flanagan may very well become Tasmania's man of letters; in this fine follow-up to Death of a River Guide, he again explores the 19th-century world of convicts and colonists from one man's perspective. William Buelow Gould's penchant for thievery may have landed him in prison cells throughout his life, but his talent for painting still lifes la Audubon always allowed him small improvements in his station. The novel shows Gould providing paintings according to his patron's whims, culminating with his task of creating an illustrated taxonomy of Tasmania's sea life, to be appropriated by prison surgeon and general eccentric Tobias Achilles Lempriere for fame and glory. When misadventure claims the life of Lempriere, Gould fears retribution and arranges a cover-up, but more complex problems rear their heads: Gould's fish are becoming more than just fish, and Gould himself is becoming something other than human. 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 (unseen at time of review), with each chapter printed in a different color ink and original full-color artwork ostensibly by Gould prefacing each chapter. Highly recommended. Marc Kloszewski, Indiana Free Lib., PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.