Many years ago I watched Tim Burton’s Big Fish having no clue the story was actually a novel by Daniel Wallace. A few years ago, I purchased the novella on a whim and it has sat on my to-read bookshelf for ages. Well, not anymore! Let’s read the first sentence together, shall we?
On one of our last car trips, near the end of my father’s life as a man, we stopped by a river, and we took a walk to its banks, where we sat in the shade of an old oak tree.
As far as first sentences go, this one is a whopper because the rest of the novel builds off this very sentence – almost every arc of the story can be found within its premises. We have a father, Edward Bloom, and a son, William, who are coming to terms with the death of the former. Water plays a huge role – death is only really a rebirth after all. And Edward’s leaving this life as a man to become a myth and eventually a legend.
One of the best father/son narratives I’ve ever read and really a great parent/child story altogether. William doesn’t know much about his dad as Edward has devoted his life to work. What William has are his father’s silly jokes and tall tales of his life from birth through death. At the end, William wants the truth about his father, directly from the source and that brings us our conflict. We relive these far-fetched wonderings through short, episodic chapters with titles like The Day He Left Ashland which beautifully captures the fear we have of failing to achieve our dreams.
If I were to create a list of my top 100 novels EVER, Big Fish would absolutely find itself somewhere on said list. Such a deeply literary novel, yet so concisely written – so available to all readers. I wholeheartedly believe that everyone will find something to love within the mere 180 pages of Wallace’s novel, whether it be a greater understanding of how mythic we make our relationships with our parents or simply a bed-time story for your children – you won’t be disappointed!!
Rating – 5/5
Published – 1998
Pages – 180
Next up – The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton