Gould’s Book of Fish by Richard Flanagan

This is not an easy book to understand or to review. It does not fit into any known genre, there is no mystery in the normal sense; while there are murders, we know who committed them. Is it a love story? Not at all, but the book blurb thinks so. It is an historical novel, but more of a surrealistic history of a penal settlement, overlaid with humour and irony. The story is told by a felon, Billy Gould who portrays himself as nothing more than a lying rascal, yet he reveals himself in his own words to be educated and moral. If you have read James Joyce’s Ulysses, then you might have something to compare this novel with, but few people have actually read Ulysses, (apart from the final section) so there is not much help there. But if you have, then there are definite similarities in the word play, the metaphors, the allusions, the irony. Gould’s Book of Fish — should you read it — will probably be the most bizarre book you will read in the next 10 years. Is it worthwhile you ask. Yes, it is worth the effort, because it is an interesting, unusual, poetic,… Continue reading

A Severed Head by Iris Murdoch, book review

A severed head book cover

This novel, published in 1961, is largely about relationships between English academics in London. There is a mix of people, an American psychotherapist, a wealthy wine producer, Martin, who relates the story, his artistic brother, a London School of Economics lecturer, and the mysterious Honor Klein, half German and not to be trifled with. Before long we find the characters in a turmoil of adultery, deception, and infidelity, which gets messier with every page. A Severed Head, is interesting and worthwhile to read. Don’t be dissuaded by the title: the severed head in question is a metaphor, not real. The novel is basically about confused adultery between the seven characters, none of whom are truthful to anyone, least of all themselves. The protagonist, Martin, years into his affair with a much younger LSE lecturer, is shocked and disgusted to discover his wife has been having an affair with her psychiatrist for months. Martin does not even confess his affair after his wife tells him about her affair. He hides it, to make sure she feels guilt, and this allows him to hold onto hope that she might not leave him, which after all could be inconvenient. He doesn’t seem to… Continue reading