A baby is born to a troubled young girl in a dilapidated caravan in New Zealand in the 1960s. He has an unnamed condition that makes him different from others in his family and community. The narrator of the story is his uncle, an eleven-year-old who, with the rest of his family, deals with the difficulties of accepting Fish’s differences.
The Sydney Morning Herald regards this book as “sheer pleasure, with its absurdist premise, sentimental narrative and picaresque structure”. And Arts Hub calls it “a lyrical work of fiction”, and the Canberra Times “a strange but ultimately beautiful story, marked by tragedy and human warmth.” However, StuffNZ: “How you respond to The Fish may depend on whether or not you love the bold and experimental stylistic choices: this reader found these distracting rather than illuminating”. Personally, I think the stylistic device (eg Fish is a hybrid creature, more marine than mammal, born into a human family) accentuates one of the novel’s main themes – the ‘outsider’ experience, from the point of view of the family of the outsider.
“In the doorway of the caravan is my barefoot sister, slumped around her fish bump. My sister’s eyes no longer try to catch mine or look to see what I do. If she did, she would have noticed the long grass bursting around the wheelhouse of the caravan. She would see that the tyres are flat.”
“Then she lifts the Fish up from the bassinet and holds him out to me.
‘Go on, take him.’ And to the Fish she says, ‘This is your uncle.’ I manage to clap my hands either side of the fish bundle. But I feel like I am holding an expensive glass. Once you’re told not to drop it, all you can think of is the glass shattering across the floor.”
“It is a fish, yet we have to pretend it isn’t. We have to talk up its glossy hair. We must overlook its smell.”
Author: Lloyd Jones
Image: Caravan Public Domain Pictures; Woman Pxhere