Book Review: Big Fish

BIG FISHI may have let this book build up too much before reading it. I have been intending to read it for years. It was recommended by lots of people as well as generally the state of North Carolina. It is magic realism, which is my favorite genre. And I love the movie, am a huge fan of Tim Burton. I wanted it to be my next, favorite book, but it just couldn’t live up to my bloated expectations.

The book takes some warming up. The style is choppy and brief, and the tone is just different. (I am reminded that I can hardly fault an author for having a style that takes some adjusting to, as mine is easily faulted for this same thing. Doesn’t change the reality, though.) By about a quarter through the rather short book, however, I had adjusted and was enjoying the book. The style becomes integral to what is happening in this quirky, special book, though I do wish the whole thing had been more developed and, well, longer.

It definitely has some charm to recommend it. It touches a reality most of us can relate to–while staying simple and optimistic–and it also contains both humor and magic. If you want a short, enjoyable book full of life and thoughtfulness, this could be your summer beach read. It would also make an excellent, book club book.

While this book is revered in North Carolina, where Daniel Wallace lives and Algonquin Books is seated, it takes place in an Alabama which has one foot in a nostalgic history and the other in a larger-than-life series of vignettes. Edward Bloom is a traveling salesman who came for a backwater town to marry a local beauty and have a son of his own. He’s basically intensely self-absorbed and ambitious, and the twisted whoppers and endless jokes that he has told his son about himself leads the reader down a winding path of Edward’s and his son’s somewhat disastrous relationship, as one stands by the death bed of the other.

I would recommend it, to just about anyone. It has beautiful language, lush descriptions, enraging characters, and imaginative stories. It’s an interesting and ultimately rewarding book, if a bit slow on the start and quick on the read.

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BIG FISH MOVIEMOVIE:

There are some differences between the movie and the book, as would be expected. The movie winds a little further into the stories and combines them more into a straight narration. Also, the son’s emotions are more negative in the movie, but the father’s obnoxiousness is conveyed how I read it. The ending also adds a significant twist, a twist that one may or may not read into the book. Overall, though, I think the movie distills much of the fancy of the book and shakes it up nicely with Burton’s bizarre. I love this movie.

There is also a Broadway musical I would love to see.

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QUOTES:

“My hope is that in these last moments he’ll show me the vulnerable and tender underbelly of his self, but this isn’t happening, yet, and I’m a fool to think that it will” (p72).

“These are tears of frustration, of being alive and alone while my father lies in the guest room dying and not dying right” (p108).

“He is retired from everything but talking” (p149).

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