In A Fishbone Church – Catherine Chidgey


Chosen by Sonya

Three generations of the Stilton family are affected by the truths in one man’s diaries of the 1950s. 

➤ “In a Fishbone Church was an extremely clever, thoughtful read. It felt real and believable in the sense it was a story about an ordinary family across generations, complete with it’s dysfunction, family secrets and unresolved issues. Chidgey cleverly and gently threw lots of questions at us about her characters, such as, was Clifford really the adulterous womaniser his diary led us to think? What did Gene really know and understand of his father’s past and had he come to peace with it, on his deathbed?  There were many unresolved questions in this novel. It was also a plotless piece, weaving together anecdotes of everyday life from the characters as they contemplated the themes of mortality, history, identity and family. It was riddled with metaphor and double meaning. While I appreciated the book for all of these reasons, cleverly executed by an undoubtedly talented writer, I found it to be vaguely over-thought, over-metaphored and somewhat academic. For me, it lacked ‘heart’, and I did struggle to find satisfaction as a result.” – Sonya

➤ “The multi-generational construction of this book provides a lot of worldly detail and character building, and while it might seem overwhelming, it is actually a deeply honest and personal portrayal of ordinary lives. Sure there are upheavals and secrets and less than desirable parenting skills, but so too is there in life. What makes the book enthralling are the characters who are probably just like people you know, such is their characterisation. I appreciate how well the themes are ingrained throughout the story, especially that of picking through the bones to uncover the truth. This might not seem like a book I would normally feel so strongly about, but what made it memorable for me was the robust construction sitting comfortably alongside the seemingly simple plot. I absolutely loved this book.” – Rachel

➤ “A stunningly simple writing style which delivers a relatable story about a pretty normal family. There were some skeletons in the closet which were alluded to but not dwelt upon – there was weight in the story left unsaid. The descriptions around everyday life were wonderfully done and the story ultimately led to an emotional ending. A thoroughly enjoyable book.” – Jo


Published 1998
Victoria University Press
271 pages

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