Review: Merlinda Bobis’ “Fish-Hair Woman”

by writereaderly

merlinda bobis fish-hair womanThis is an excellent novel; in fact, the best conflict-set novel I’ve read. (Thanks to the blog-reader who recommended it). Set in the Philippines and exploring the civil and political conflict of the 1970s-1990s, it is complex, nuanced and beautiful. More interestingly, it deliberately evades easy answers and is brutal towards well-intentioned white liberals, local tyrants, shallow politicians and media; it prefers to spell out the complexities of faith and love and humanity that are sometimes fought over with AK-47s and hand-grenades. It is a novel about memory and forgetting – who ought to, how and why one would or should – in the face of conflict and community suffering and loss. The plotting focuses on the forced disappearances in the town of Iraya, where dozens of bodies are pulled from the local river, victims of either guerrilla, paramilitary or military forces. The characters are lost Australian journalists, corrupt political warlords, small-town gravediggers and midwives, drug-addicted children of victims, their stories told in a complicated but satisfying interesting of stories told as magic realism, journalism, travel-horror, political thriller, village tragedy, hideous farce. A truly rich book, I’m so glad to have read it and to now have Bobis on my radar.

Where it came from: Library
Time and manner of reading:
Café, beanbag, bed and verandah-in-the-sun reads
Where it went: Home
Reminds me of/that: Former lives
Who I’d recommend it to:
Also reading: Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper