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Fish-hair Woman, by Merlinda Bobis.

July 18, 2013

Fish-hair Woman, by Merlinda Bobis.  Melbourne, Australia: Spinifex Press, 2012.




An exquisite novel set in the Philippines, by a Filipina author, and one of the best books I have read all year.

Estrella is the fish-hair woman, the one with twelve-meter hair who trawls for bodies in the river when pro-government forces and guerillas sweep through the village.  She is the one who remembers and suffers.  Her story and those around her are central to this unique book, but the stories that are woven here are about much more.  About life and death, of course.  And politics and war in the Philippines.  About parents and children and siblings.   About the past and whether or not we can ever escape it.  About history and memory.  About a fascinating group of characters.  And about finding joy in the face of pain.

Merlinda Bobis is a poet as well as a novelist. She works magic with words, playing with them, repeating them and exploring their meanings.  Her novel is multilayered and nonchronological.  Events from over a thirty-year period are related.  Multiple narrators tell stories that often conflict.  Mystery abounds leaving readers and characters unsure of what “really” happened.

Despite its inventive, mysterious quality, this book is very accessible.  Bobis’ voice carries you along, just like the river that runs through the village.

Sue @ whisperinggums has written an excellent review of this book, much more coherent and insightful than I am able to write.  Rather than quote her extensively, I am urging you to go read what she has to say.  Also see the fine review by writereaderly.

Fish-Hair Woman should be read by all readers who like the play of words and images. This is another impressive book published by Spinifex Books. I am grateful to them for sending me this ebook to review.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. July 20, 2013 9:14 am

    Sounds fascinating! Go Spinifex!

  2. July 20, 2013 12:34 pm

    A poignant review, Marilyn

  3. July 21, 2013 4:13 am

    Thanks for the link Marilyn. I’m so glad you liked it. So few people have read it as far as I can tell. My daughter has left another of her books here while she gallivants overseas … I just have to find time to read it!

  4. residentjudge permalink
    July 23, 2013 1:48 am

    I’ve borrowed this one from the library. I hadn’t heard of it before.


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