|A Fish Trapped Inside the Wind by Christien Gholson|
|Category: Literary Fiction|
|Reviewer: Louise Laurie|
|Summary: As the title might hint at, this is a quirky book involving poetry, waste dumps ... and fish in places they're not normally not meant to be, in a quiet and unassuming area of Belgium. We follow the lives of a handful of the locals as they try to interpret the meaning of this strange 'fishy' event.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Maybe|
|Pages: 290||Date: May 2011|
|Publisher: Parthian Books|
|External links: Author's website|
The front cover is lovely with its blue and turquoise suggesting languid waters. The author of The Jane Austen Book Club (which I've read incidentally) fell in love with this novel. High praise indeed. I'm hoping to do the same.
Everything about this book stinks (and I use the word explicitly). All of the chapters have the word 'fish' somewhere or other and there's a quote right at the beginning which gives the book its quirky and unusual title. (As I'm a fishy Piscean does that bode well for a good or sympathetic review, I wonder).
We get a strong sense of place in the very first page. A young boy called Philippe is cycling along a narrow road between the cement factory and a vast, rectangular quarry. Conveyor belts carrying limestone up out of the quarry lake creaked through a tunnel beneath the road, into the factory. And Gholson gives us a very good mental picture of just how big this quarry is saying that you could fit fourteen towns the size of Villon into it. So, pretty big then. As I'm digesting this piece of information I'm also trying to get my head round the fact that there's fish all over the place: in the local fields, in the street etc. As we meet some of the locals they all have their own view as to how all these fish ended up dying, or even dead on dry land.
The town is ancient, so there's a general feeling that perhaps past mistakes, crimes even, are coming back to teach the town's residents a lesson. A smelly one too. The whole fish out of water theme comes across as rather mystical/magical/ethereal and this pervades throughout the novel.
The chapters are sub-divided into the characters we meet. So, for example, we have the lover, the seer, the stranger, the illusionist and we pick up and put down their various stories, all tied in with these fish. I must say that by now, the fish are not doing it for me, I'm getting a little tired of them and I'm not even half way through the book. There are random quotes also such as ... and the world smells of fish ... and similar. I wasn't really connecting with the book and at this point I would probably choose to read no further (life is too short etc) but of course, I carried out stoically.
I was hoping that my interest would pick up a little as the story progressed and as I got the know the various characters, but sadly it didn't. As for the characters: well, there's a mother with a young son but also trying to deal with her drunken husband. She ends up seeking refuge, of a sort. There's also a young, rather scholarly woman and then there's a man who is perfecting his magical and illusionist tricks.
There's an important festival coming up which is always well attended by the town. The locals themselves seem a mixed bunch - but then, isn't every town? I was really trying to latch on to something, someone, somewhere - interesting. Nothing worked for me. I found Gholson's prose to be rather fluffy (not in a good way) and clunky which made it uninteresting. After I'd read a page, I'd think to myself what was all that about?
I suppose though that there is a subliminal message here which is of a political nature. I'm harking back to the quarry again and thinking of land-fill, waste etc. Mess with nature at your peril and all that. There's talk of toxic landfill sites in the town which gets the locals' ears pricking up - at last. I felt as if most of the characters portrayed here were extremely 'light' on the printed page and as a result I had very little to engage with. You could say that they were all as slippery as those bloomin' fish but that's probably down to my own dis-connection.
There's also a recurring theme involving some lost poems of a young man, now deceased. Happily, someone is trying to locate and resurrect his work. Despite my best intentions (I so wanted to like this book) I just did not engage on any level, sorry. Well, apart from that tiny political one. It's a book I'll be happy to forget. But - if you like mystical-and-magical- prose within a European context, then you may enjoy this book.
I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
If this book appeals then you might like to try Many and Many a Year Ago by Selcuk Altun.
You can read more book reviews or buy A Fish Trapped Inside the Wind by Christien Gholson at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy A Fish Trapped Inside the Wind by Christien Gholson at Amazon.com.
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