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ISBN: 9781876756970
232 x 154 mm
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Fish–Hair Woman
Merlinda Bobis
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1987. The Philippine government fights a total war against insurgency. The village of Iraya is militarised. The days are violent and the nights heavy with fireflies in the river where the dead are dumped. With her twelve-metre hair, Estrella, the Fish-Hair Woman, trawls corpses from the water that tastes of lemon grass. She falls in love with the Australian Tony McIntyre who disappears in the conflict. Ten years later, his son travels to Manila to find his father.

How much can the heart accommodate? Death and love, an enemy and a sweetheart, war and an impassioned serenade, and more. Only four chambers but with infinite space like memory, where there is room even for those whom we do not love.
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Podcast An interview with Merlinda Bobis about 'Fish-Hair Woman'

Finalist: 2013 Davitt Awards. Best crime and mystery books by Australian women
Winner: Most Underrated Book Award 2013

Winner: Juan C. Laya Prize for Best Novel in a Foreign Language 2014
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Written in beautifully lush, yet sharply focused language this tour de force is a tragic tale of a family destroyed during the "total war" ... Balancing the evocation of the fecund world being fought over is an angry rigour. The story never defects to the easy resolution but maintains its tragic intensity throughout ... The characters are sharp, and the keen depiction of their lives makes their destruction all the more resonant. Perhaps novels lack the capacity to change the world as they once did, but Fish-Hair Woman and its lingering after-image is a testament to the importance of keeping justice alive by maintaining the rage against power and its abusers.
Ed Wright, The Australian
Bobis lives in Australia but is vitally concerned with her birthplace, the Philippines. She can do what very few authors here dare - mix magic realism with the political.The book is dark, angry and powerful. For the Stella Prize, at least.
Lucy Sussex, The Age, M Guide
To read Fish-Hair Woman is to enter a kind of entrancement, at once strange, haunting, beautiful and terrifying. This is an extraordinary novel of compelling originality in which we learn that testimony is solidarity and that the loss and retrieval of any story of historical suffering implicates us all ...
Gail Jones, author of Five Bells

Table of Contents
Prologue: The howling bounces around the trees used for coffins.
Beloved: My memories shuttle back and forth, like blood going up and down from heart to hair and back. Memories are long and far reaching …
Gestures: Manila. A grey watercolour that has never dried.
Iraya: You have to weep not from the throat but from lower down, just as in singing, so you don’t grow hoarse, because it takes forever to get to the last note.
Testimonies: People walk to the river for many reasons. Some to swim, to wash, to fish, to make love, to fall in love … but they always return home.
River: I have never left the water, always fishing for a story and finding none but my own.
Epilogue: Finish it. Tell the world.
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