Gould's Book of Fish: A Novel in Twelve Fish
is a witty, bawdy, irreverent tour de force of satire that tells the story of William Buelow “Billy” Gould, who was sentenced to life in prison on the infamous Sarah Island, off the coast of Tasmania—the harshest penal colony of the early nineteenth-century British Empire. While imprisoned Gould paints fish for the prison’s naturalist surgeon, and the fish he paints become the organizing principle of the book. If you liked Voltaire’s Candide
, you’ll appreciate Flanagan’s Gould’s Books of Fish. I didn’t, so I don’t. Still, I can applaud its literary merit. Richard Flanagan
is a Tasmanian devil of an author.