Blue Flower, Book of Fish

Maybe some scrips follow on from the one before. After yesterday’s about Penelope Fitzgerald, I’m delighted to see, in today’s Guardian Review, Claire Messud: “I dislike a lot of historical fiction. But then I read Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Blue Flower, her masterpiece, and was amazed.”

Or maybe other scrips arise from random connections: next to Penelope Fitzgerald on my shelf is Scott Fitzgerald, and then Richard Flanagan. Flanagan has also written books set in the past and totally unlike the ‘traditional’ historical novel. I haven’t yet read his Booker-prize-winning The Narrow Road to the Deep North; but I love the one before that, Wanting, about Charles Dickens and Sir John and Lady Franklin and their adopted daughter—though like so many of the books I love, what it’s “about” can’t be summed up. The first book of his that I read was Gould’s Book of Fish, which is, sort of, about nineteenth-century Tasmania. It’s a magical, hallucinatory, incantatory, poetic, and unique creation. Looking at the first page makes me want to read it all over again. It begins like this:

“My wonder upon discovering the Book of Fish remains with me yet, luminous as the phosphorescent marbling that seized my eyes that strange morning; glittering as those eerie swirls that coloured my mind and enchanted my soul—which there and then began the process of unravelling my heart and, worse still, my life into the poor scraggy skein that is this story you are about to read.”