Title: Big Fish
Author: Daniel Wallace
Genre: Fantasy, Contemporary
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Publication Date: 1st October, 1998
Summary: He could outrun anybody, and he never missed a day of school. Animals loved him. People loved him. Women loved him (and he loved them back). And he knew more jokes than any man alive.
Now, as he lies dying, Edward Bloom can’t seem to stop telling jokes – or the tall tales that have made him, in his son’s eyes, an extraordinary man. Big Fish is the story of this man’s life, told as a series of legends and myths inspired by the few facts his son, William, knows. Through these tales – hilarious and wrenching, tender and outrageous – William begins to understand Edward Bloom’s great feats, and his great failings, managing to reckon with the father he’s about to lose. And find a way to say goodbye.
Big Fish was on the list of books I had to read for my adaptation module at university and I was quite excited to start as I had heard so many good things about it and it sounded really different and interesting. However, I was very disappointed.
Big Fish is centred around William Bloom, who’s father is dying. His father, Edward, always told William tall tales about his life and the things he has done. William recounts these stories as well as multiple re-tellings of his fathers death.
Before I say why I was let down by the book, I have to say I understand the reasons why some people would enjoy it – it has a fun mixture of fantasy and reality throughout and the writing style makes for quite easy reading. For me though, I really did not like the structure or the overall story. I didn’t connect to any of the main characters and I found each separate account of his fathers death to be tedious and dull. It is very much like a series of short stories, sometimes jumping from one to another without much correlation.
I often felt throughout that the specific stories or sections which were meant to be particularly emotional didn’t work. I was too disconnected from the characters to feel empathy towards them. This was by far the most challenging aspect when reading Big Fish, as good characterisation and emotional connections to the characters are, in my opinion, the most important part of any story.
On the positive side though (I don’t have only negative thoughts for this book) there are a few quirky little tales, mostly from when Edward was quite young. It’s very imaginative with an odd blurring between fantasy and reality in many places. You’re not quite sure what to believe is the truth or a lie or just completely over exaggerated.
On the whole, I personally wouldn’t read this book again. I’m also still not happy with the ending, though I know that it is a very popular book and many people do love the story and the way it is told. However, I can’t honestly recommend Big Fish to anyone, as the lack of emotional connection to the main characters makes for a rather dull and shallow read.