Today I will be doing a review of “Big Fish” by Daniel Wallace. I had a lot to say about this book, read on for my thoughts on the book plot versus the film plot, some character break downs, & great quotes! Also, please FOLLOW me to stay updated with all the book reviews & articles I post here, thank you!
I feel like I’ve mentioned before that “Big Fish” is one of my favorite movies. I was disappointed that the “Big Fish” musical totally flopped (fish pun intended), so I was excited to read the original source material & see what they were working with that succeed in film, but not on the stage.
“Big Fish” is the story of a man named Will Bloom & his relationship with his father Edward. Will grew up hearing all sorts of wild tales from his father. As a child, he loved the stories, but as he grew up he realized the stories were heavily exaggerated & felt that his father lied to him. This created a disconnect between the two until Edward falls ill. Will asks his father to tell him about his real life, not the make believe stories from his childhood, so that he can finally learn who his father is, before it’s too late.
The chapters are written somewhat like short stories, they don’t really flow. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll recognize sections that were plucked from the book. Some scenes play a bigger part in the book & some play a bigger part in the movie. If you are a fan of the film, I’m not sure you will like the book. The way some of the stories were originally written create a whole different tone than is showcased in the film. Of course, this is a typical occurrence when books are turned into films. On the bright side & another note completely, I was happy to see that the characters kept the same names throughout the book & the film. It’s a small nuance that paid homage to the book & I appreciated it.
– Will, the son, is a complicated character. It’s not revealed how old he is at first, so there’s no context for you to judge his maturity level. On one hand, I think Will is kind of brat because I found Edward’s stories somewhat adorable. They’re the kind of tales grandparents tell about situations like walking to school – uphill both ways – in snow – even though they lived in Florida. The stories mean more than what they’re really saying, you have to read into them & find the wisdom. On the other hand, I can understand how Will felt lied to. It must be frustrating to never get a straight answer out of someone you’re looking to for guidance, but…suck it up. He could have had a much worse father figure. We all think the grass is greener somewhere else though, & Will is no different. I felt that he was extremely passive & didn’t really seem to care wether he figured out his father & patched things up or not.
– Edward is also complicated. When he passes through Ashland & the townspeople warn him not to test the guard dog, he eventually races by. He is able to leave the town while many others can’t & has a friendly interaction with the dog, which shows his personality as strong & a bit stubborn, but ultimately a fighter & someone who won’t listen to nay-sayers because he believes in himself. In the film, Edward leaving the town later inspires another character to leave as well, showing that Edward was an influential person, he was a big fish all along. A lot of Edward’s movements throughout the story stem from his dissatisfaction with life, he’s always looking for the next best thing, ignoring what’s right under his nose – his family.
– Pg 20: “Remembering a man’s stories makes him immortal”
Definitely one of the main points of this story.
– Pg 21 & 22: Edward: ‘I’ll tell you what the problem was…I wanted to be a great man…”
Will: “…if a man could be said to be loved by his son, then I think that man could be considered great’ For that is the only power I have, to bestow upon my father the mantle of greatness, a thing he sought in the wider world, but one that, in a surprise turn of events, was here at home all along.”
Edward: “Ah…[n]ever thought about it in those terms…”
Sometimes we get so caught up in our own desires, we forget what others need & want from us. Edward wanted to leave behind a great life for Will to remember him by, instead of spending time creating a great life WITH Will. In the end, a life of shared memories mattered a great deal more to Will & he had to make his peace with not having them, or at least not having them the way he wanted.
– Pg 139: “We all have stories, just as you do. Ways in which [Edward] touched us, helped us…lots of stories, big & small. They all add up. Over a lifetime it all adds up…We’re a part of him, of who he is, just as he is a part of us.”
This is what life is all about. Everyone we meet makes us who we are & in turn we’re part of their story too. We live on through stories. We don’t always know why things happen until we look back and see how everything adds up over our lifetime.
If you haven’t seen the film, you might enjoy this book as somewhat of a memoir of a father & son trying to patch up their relationship. After all, Wallace did write the story based on his relationship with his father. However, I think it just falls flat. The message of the story focuses on the idea that we all want to be special & mean something to others, especially within the parent – child relationship. The fatal flaw in that thinking though is that most kids just want honesty & at a certain point, to be treated like adults. Instead of being honest, Edward wanted Will to see him a certain way & ended up creating a negative relationship between them. I don’t feel like they were really ever to solve their issues, but I suppose that’s up to the interpretation of each reader.
I hate to keep comparing the book to the film, but the film is so much better! It’s filled with life & is so imaginative. The movie really makes Edward a hero & Will a sympathetic character, while I found them barely likable in the book. Another issue with the book was that there was really no use for the female characters. The film makes MUCH better use of all the characters & the romance within the story. I also appreciate how the film comes full circle & shows a bit of what happens to Will. The book sucks all the imagination out of the story told in the film. Where the film is magical, the book is real life. That isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just not my cup of tea, especially when I went in expecting the lush imagery & captivating story that is featured in the film. Despite my criticisms, I definitely connect with this story, to a certain extent, because part of my family is Greek & we’re big story tellers. I really believe in the message of “Big Fish”, that stories keep our memories, and those we love, alive. I really wanted to like this book, but unfortunately it just couldn’t live up to the film version that I know and love. If you at all have an interest in the film “Big Fish”, read this book if you want to learn about the source material, but don’t expect it to be like the film. If you’re not already familiar with the story in some capacity & are going into this as “just another book”, I wouldn’t recommend it.
Have you read “Big Fish” or seen the film? Which do you prefer? Do you agree with me or am I missing something? Please feel free to share your thoughts & book suggestions with me in the comments below!