Once upon a time that was called 1828, before all the living things on the land and the fishes in the sea were destroyed, there was a man named William Buelow Gould, a convict in Van Dieman's Land who fell in love with a black woman and discovered too late that to love is not safe. Silly Billy Gould, invader of Australia, liar, murderer, forger, fantasist, was condemned to live in the most brutal penal colony in the British Empire, and there ordered to paint a book of fish. Once upon a time, miraculous things happened....
©2002 Richard Flanagan (P)2004 Bolinda Publishing Pty Ltd
"Flanagan's fact-based fiction is a miraculously vulgar and sensationally evocative listen. The story of Billy Gould, a convict who has been sent to Van Dieman's Land, a Tasmanian penal colony, in 1828, reveals in graphic detail both the essence of inhumanity and bizarre acts of humanity. This vivid description of prison life combined with the story's surrealistic miracles could be a life-changing experience for the listener. Taking his cue from the enormous imagination of the author, Humphrey Bower catches the excessive vitality of Gould. Sometimes the manic pace of his narration overwhelms the novel's quieter moments, but the convict himself would probably not be disturbed. Prepare yourself to be drawn in, tossed about, horrified, and totally dazzled." (AudioFile magazine)
This book is an incredible act of creation. An alternative world through the narrative of a man whose relationship to what we regard as reality is unlike any other I have encountered. In this telling, reality is mutable as an act of creation of a future and as an transformation of a past. Whilst I at times marvelled at the use of certain words, the rich vocabulary and the amusing and incisive turns of phrase, this is also a book in which to immerse or closely study.
The audio presentation is fabulous, with well-presented different voices and accents giving greater depth to the author's often wondrous if deliberately somewhat two-dimensional characters. In this, the strength of the audiobook format is superbly served.
"A bewildering experience"
Flanagan created a twisting, turning tale that is both entertaining and bewildering. This book demands multiple readings. And, the experience is more enjoyable with every reading. The audio version is top-notch; the narrator completely nails the performance.
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