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All Reviews - Fish–Hair Woman
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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
As I was reading my thoughts kept turning to Wide Sargasso Sea. It shares with Jean Rhys’s masterpiece more than just a threat to topple into tragedy, but Fish-Hair Woman takes a wider view. It is a love story, a murder mystery, a story about family and a story about the impact of the kind of self-perpetuating government corruption that so often befalls a country in political turmoil. It’s ambitious and sprawling, and things could quickly go wrong. Fortunately, they don’t. Bobis is a talented, passionate writer who is unafraid of exploring the storytelling potential of the novel.
Tristan Foster, Verity LA
Merlinda Bobis writes with passion and poetry about individual and collective suffering. This is an unforgettable tale of violence and love, of brutality and community, a sad and eloquent song for those who have disappeared. Its remarkable register – from visceral realism to high mythology – underpins a truth not often noticed: that language is never futile.
Brian Castro, author of Shanghai Dancing
...I love the idea that the magical is metaphorical. For instance, Estrella’s hair is memory. It grows a hand span each time she remembers. Memory makes the people who have disappeared re-appear...Although language cannot give the dead back their flesh, Bobis fleshes out characters to save their stories about the Total War. She is a talented writer, ethical and passionate about her work, and I’d recommend Fish-Hair Woman.
Ham and Squid Book Review
It’s part war story, murder mystery, political thriller, romance, and historical epic. It draws on the magical realist tradition of writers like Isabel Allende, but overarching all this, it is a book about stories – about the stories we cleave to ourselves and the stories we tell others, the stories that convey the truth and the ones that hide it, the stories that change with time and those that never change...For all the sadness and brutality in this book, it has a big heart. And its message is clear. We are all in this together. How much better if we see it sooner rather than later.
Whispering Gums

Fish-Hair Woman is about passion, loss, and tortured souls blended with the elements of intrigue and mystery. It’s also a novel of war and human suffering, a timely reminder to this reader. I could hardly put it down.

Allthenewsthatmatters - Book Review Blog
There are no bad or evil memories in Bobis’s works. Even the ideologies about peace and violence have been blurred. The results are new beginnings...Merlinda Bobis is the Fish-Hair Woman, with hair that stretches from Australia to Albay, telling us that death is no reason to stop singing.
Tito Genova Valiente, Buisness Mirror
... an author and a book with so fulsome and generous a voice that it leaves one emptied out at the reading end.
Mascara Literary Review, Paul Giffard-Foret
Bobis's character of Estrella is a fascinating way to literalise the burden of grief. She is born bald, but Estrella's hair begins to grow after a near-death experience, its growth triggered by painful memories... Bobis tests the reader's imagination with such a magical character, but crafts Estrella's voice wonderfully to render her believable. The detail of her unique dialect is exquisite...Bobis continues her bilingual tradition of including Filipino language in the text. This gives a transcendent, other-world quality to the manuscript and deepens it authenticity. Although details of the war can be shocking, this is a romantic and optimistic novel that will not disappoint fans of magical realism or Bobis's earlier work.
Teagan Kum Sing, Crossing The Boundary: Raising the Issues we Prefer to Ignore
Instead of leaving the reader to absorb the words off the printed page, Bobis injects them as if hypodermically into the listener...In a complex narrative that took Bobis 15 years to complete, magic, dreams and mysteries proliferate, and even when she blows them away with gusts of televisual realism, they remain in the air.
Alison Broinowski, The Canberra Times

A truly rich book, I’m so glad to have read it and to now have Bobis on my radar.

An exquisite novel set in the Philippines, by a Filipina author, and one of the best books I have read all year ... Merlinda Bobis is a poet as well as a novelist. She works magic with words, playing with them, repeating them and exploring their meanings.
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