Slip of a Fish
Amy Arnold (And Other Stories)
This year’s Northern Book Prize Winner, Amy Arnold’s Slip Of A Fish, is mesmerising. It’s published by And Other Stories, who have pledged to only publish female authors in 2018, and who have been praised for their impeccable selections thus far. This writer has never read such a poetic piece of prose before. Every word of the novel seems fished-out, curated, hand-picked. Just like Ash, our intriguing first-person narrator, who’d rather be swimming and climbing trees than dealing with the psychological complexity of her life.
Confused by what she considers other people’s unhealthy and pointless fixation with time and the keeping of it, Ash instead fixates on words, the way they change, the way people choose to use them, and their meanings, rather than what is actually happening to her. This begins to breach her sanity, which is seamlessly integrated into the novel’s tone and structure as well as the lives of the other characters. The only thing she fixates on more than language, perhaps, is her daughter Charlie who seems to suffer the most from her mother’s condition.
Over summer, we watch the change in Ash’s relationships and her desperate, unforgivable attempts to grasp at the slippery remains of the one she has with Charlie. The narrative is so convincing that we develop a grotesque fascination with Ash’s life as she grapples with her sensuality, sexuality and engagement with the world outside of her mind. Reading it felt like seeing something underwater – just shapes, colours and blurry images that only make sense once we emerge from the water, gasping for air. MEGAN THOMAS
Price: £10. Info: www.andotherstories.org