A review of The Pisces
WELL THEN. Where do I even start with trying to sum up this book??
Let’s just begin with the plot.
Lucy, a neurotic thirty-something with a depressive streak and a tendency for existential angst breaks up with her long-term boyfriend Jamie. Escaping Phoenix and her relationship troubles (not to mention a long overdue classics dissertation) she takes up her sister’s offer to housesit in L.A. Annika leaves in Lucy’s trusted care her beloved foxhound Dominic and a beautiful home overlooking Venice Beach.
But Lucy cannot run away from her problems (or herself) and there continues the spiral of self-destruction, serial tinder dates and melancholic wallowing.
Until one night, whilst looking mournfully over the ocean she meets Theo, a cute swimmer who seems to be different from all the other men. And he is different. He is a MERMAN..
Dark, whip-smart and definitely one of the weirdest books I’ve ever read, Broder’s debut novel sucked me in and spat me out again feeling confused, intrigued and more than a little bit violated.
This is most definitely NOT a novel for the faint of heart.
Firstly, this book should come with some kind of trigger warning – just a small ‘FYI you’re about to dive into the depths of your own soul’ would have been great.
I should have really known - Broder is most well known for her collection of essays So Sad Today which vividly recounts her experiences with depression, anxiety and addiction.
We follow the Lucy into the void; down into the spiralling blackness we go. So if you are not of a sunny disposition, perhaps avoid this book. Lines such as ‘I'm less afraid of dying than I am of life’ might not be great reading material if you are in need of a pick-me-up.
If you enjoy dark humour though, go right ahead. Because out of all this human despair comes the comedy. And Broder is an expert in both depressing you, shocking you and making you laugh all in the same sentence.
The fact that it is hugely funny make you almost forget that cannot stand the protagonist. Who really is a uniquely dislikeable character. She makes decision after terrible decision with no thought to anyone else - Lucy is a judgmental b**tch to say the least.
We follow every last, terrible thought that goes through her mind. Nothing is out of bounds. Those awful things that people think that they would NEVER EVER say - that’s what Broder manages to put into words. So as annoying as Lucy, you have to applaud Broder’s ability to perfectly capture the selfishness of the depressive, and the unique narcissism that comes with thinking that the whole world is against you.
And then, there’s the sex scenes. Now, I’m no prude but even I felt myself squeamishly speeding through some of the raunchier bits, which were just a little too graphic for my delicate sensibilities.
So if you can get over all of that (well done) you will be able to appreciate that Broder is an excellent writer.
I was left reeling with how well she captures the depths of human ennui and the fickle intricacies of romantic relationships - the juggling act between power, neediness and vulnerability.
She perfectly offsets all of these very human problems with themes of greek mythology and ancient folklore. So as much as you could technically class this book as ‘fantasy’ Broder makes sure it is firmly rooted in reality. A raw, visceral, human reality that sits alongside fantasy, poetry and myth – it’s a clever, intoxicating mix that is just so different to anything else I’ve ever read.
It’s not often you pick up a book that is completely and unexpectedly something totally new. ‘The Pisces’ is sure to divide opinion, but whether you love it or hate it (or as I do, both at the same time) I think everyone can agree that’s it’s unique. That it’s hilarious. And that Broder sure can write.
So if merman sex and existential angst sounds right up your street - you can get the book here!