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Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions Hardcover – October 1, 1998

4.2 out of 5 stars 160 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In Big Fish, Daniel Wallace angles in search of a father and hooks instead a fictional debut as winning as any this year. From his son's standpoint, Edward Bloom leaves much to be desired. He was never around when William was growing up; he eludes serious questions with a string of tall tales and jokes. This is subject matter as old as the hills, but Wallace's take is nothing if not original. Desperate to know his father before he dies, William recreates his father's life as the stuff of legend itself. In chapters titled "In Which He Speaks to Animals," "How He Tamed the Giant," "His Immortality," and the like, Edward Bloom walks miles through a blizzard, charms the socks off a giant, even runs so fast that "he could arrive in a place before setting out to get there." In between these heroic episodes, Bloom dies not once but four times, working subtle variations on a single scene in which he counters his son's questions with stories--some of which are actually very witty, indeed. After all, he admits, "...if I shared my doubts with you, about God and love and life and death, that's all you'd have: a bunch of doubts. But now, see, you've got all these great jokes." The structure is a clever conceit, and the end product is both funny and wise. At the heart of both legends and death scenes live the same age-old questions: Who are you? What matters to you? Was I a good father? Was I a good son? In mapping the territory where myth meets everyday life, Wallace plunges straight through to fatherhood's archaic and mysterious heart. --Mary Park

From Publishers Weekly

"People mess things up, forget and remember all the wrong things. What's left is fiction," writes Wallace in his refreshing, original debut, which ignores the conventional retelling of the events and minutiae of a life and gets right to the poetry of a son's feelings for and memories of his father. William Bloom's father, Edward, is dying. He dies in fact in four different takes, all of which have William and his mother waiting outside a bedroom door as the family doctor tells them it's time to say their goodbyes. He intersperses the four takes with stories (all filtered through William's mind and voice) about the elusive Edward, who spent long periods of time on the road away from home and admitted once to his son that he had yearned to be a great man. The father and son deathbed conversations have son William playing earnest straight man, while his father is full of witticisms and jokes. In a plainspoken style dotted with transcendent passages, Wallace mixes the mundane and the mythical. His chapters have the transformative quality of fable and fairy tale, and the novel's roomy structure allows the mystery and lyricism of the story to coalesce. Agent, Joe Regal; author tour. (Oct.) FYI: Wallace is an illustrator who designs T-shirts, refrigerator magnets and greeting cards.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; 1st edition (October 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565122178
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565122178
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 7.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (160 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #93,360 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The world is full of mother and daughter books, such as 'The Joy Luck Club', 'Divine Secrets of the YaYa Sisterhood' to name a few, it was high time we had found a good book about fathers and sons. And here it is. Daniel Wallace's 'Big Fish' does not disappoint when it comes to explore this universe.
It is not a novel, but a episodic book, nevertheless, it must be read in the order, because they chronologically tell the story of Edward Bloom, through the eyes of his son, William Bloom. Edward is dying and in order to reconstitute his life, his son starts telling his (Edward's) stories --somehow, he believes that telling this father's adventures is a form of keep him alive. Like his father advises to him once: 'Remembering a man's stories makes him immortal'. Of course, that to William's eyes his father is a hero, more than that sort of a mythological figure-- hence the subtitle of the book 'A Novel of Mythic Proportions'.
From time to time, a chapter called 'My father's death' pops up, and this is the bitter side of this bittersweet book. While most of Edward's stories are sort of expanded jokes, these chapters are much more serious --even being funny when Edward shows up-- and sad, because that's when William has to come to terms with that his father is dying.
When commenting a hard fishing, William states 'Only a fool or a hero would try to catch a fish that size, and my father, well -- I guess he was a little of both'. The love that William has to his father is touching. More a dreamer, like a Don Quixote, it is hard to tell how Edward really was, because his stories a very fantastic --he fights against giants, meets fantastic creatures etc.
As a book of episodes, it is undeniable that they don't share the same level, some are much better and more developed that the others.
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By KundaVega on January 15, 2004
Format: Paperback
As a lover of myth, folklore and fairytale I was absolutely enchanted by this book. I do believe that storytelling is a direct route to our psyches, especially all of our collective unconscious as humans who share trials and triumphs with each other and forever wonder how we rate as individuals. Daniel Wallace has created an endearing world within a son's imagination of the father he desires to know. As a daughter I can embrace this same longing with both my parents. The beauty of our minds and souls is how we can indeed fill in the negative spaces with dreams and tall tales that somehow do reality and truth justice within the reflection. I loved this book for all it had to share. A lovely read and I recommend it to everyone.
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By A Customer on November 17, 1998
Format: Hardcover
BIG FISH is fantastic. I read it a few weeks ago, and it has totally stayed with me. I can't get it out of my mind, and keep picking it up and start rereading it at random, just to be back in its magical world. It's funny, witty, sad, and in the end incredibly moving. It's about learning to come to terms with your parents, with a son writing about his father as myth, a superhuman who seemed like he would live forever (and in a way, he does), and it's really remarkable that so short and light a book could be so incredibly powerful. BIG FISH should become a classic. Whatever you do, don't miss it.
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Format: Paperback
Many reviewers, and even the Reader's Guide in Big Fish, speak about its important mythical parallels and insight to father/son relationships. There is no doubt that both of these make Big Fish an incredibly intricate novel.
But Wallace's ability to write in the way we remember is what makes Big Fish a great read. Although we generally follow his tale of William Bloom's father, Edward Bloom, in chronological order, it is not necessarily so. The reader is never quite sure when a specific tale occurred, nor does it matter in your understanding of Edward or of William. The tales occur as they are triggered in William's memory, as he strives to understand his father, to see what he has seen and feel what he has felt.
Wallace's writing reflects the joys of oral traditions, of storytelling, of fabrication, of fantasy, of re-creating ourselves in other's eyes and the consequences that may bring.
Big Fish is a wonderful, multi-layered series of stories combined to create a joy of a novel.
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Format: Paperback
Summary: A story popularized by a movie starring Ewan MacGregor, this is the tale of Edward Bloom in his own words as he lies on his deathbed. Bloom is undoubtedly taking a certain liberty with the facts, as he strikes a rich vein of fantasy that is reminiscent of, but not borrowed from, a combination of fairy tales and American folklore. His tales of childhood are interspersed with "the present," in which his son, who wants a father who can be more honest with him, relates the sad details of his death, in different ways.


Very well-written, managing to walk the tightrope between classic and entertaining without needing a net. It makes you laugh, it makes you cry. The slimness of the book allows for a reading in one sitting, which lets you really become absorbed. The movie was also terrific, but the book takes the prize, I think.

What I learned:

Maintaining a relationship with your family members is important. Dreaming big and refusing to accept the reality of your surroundings can have both good and bad consequences.
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