Gould's Book of Fish

Gould's Book of Fish: A Novel in Twelve Fish is a 2001 novel by Tasmanian author Richard Flanagan. Gould's Book of Fish was Flanagan's third novel.

Gould's Book of Fish: A Novel in Twelve Fish
First edition
AuthorRichard Flanagan
Cover artistWilliam Buelow Gould (artwork), Alex Snellgrove (design)
PublisherPicador, Pan Macmillan, Australia
Publication date
Media typePrint Hardback & Paperback
Pages404 pp

Plot summary

Gould's Book of Fish is a fictionalised account of the convict William Buelow Gould's life both at Macquarie Harbour and elsewhere during his life in Van Diemen's Land.[1]

Chapter titles (the twelve fish)[1]

  1. The Pot-bellied Seahorse
  2. The Kelpy
  3. The Porcupine Fish
  4. The Stargazer
  5. The Leatherjacket
  6. The Serpent Eel
  7. The Sawtooth Shark
  8. The Striped Cowfish
  9. The Crested Weedfish
  10. The Freshwater Crayfish
  11. The Silver Dory
  12. The Weedy Seadragon


The novel is unusual in that it makes use of paintings by the real Van Diemonian convict artist William Buelow Gould reproduced with permission from William Gould's Sketchbook of Fishes, held by the Allport Library and Museum of Fine Arts, in the State Library of Tasmania.[1] These images of fish are used both as chapter headings and inspiration for characters. Different editions around the world have used different images of Gould's for their cover.


  • Dedication: "For Rosie, Jean and Eliza, swimming in ever widening rings of wonder."[1]
  • Epigraph: "My mother is a fish." – William Faulkner.[1]



  • The Daily Telegraph Will Cohu, Deep Down Under
  • New York Times Michiko Kakutani, 'A Reborn Criminal Distils Beauty From a Prison's Abominable Depths'
  • The Observer "Con fishing", Robert MacFarlane, 26 May 2002
  • Australian Book Review Brian Matthews, 'The Ministry of Fish'


  1. Flanagan, Richard (2002). Gould's Book of Fish. Picador. ISBN 0-330-36378-6.
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