Review: The Pisces

What had always felt to me like an overabundance of want, too much desire, had not been the problem. It was my fear of having to feel it that hurt me.”

I picked up The Pisces knowing very little about it. Having spotted in on sale in my local Waterstones I decided to give it a go as it promised a gritty story with flashes of magical realism. This is usually one of my favourite genres. There was also some pretty graphic merman sex thrown in (more on that later).

When her long term relationship ends and the university which employs her threatens to cut funding for her PhD on Sappho, Lucy retreats to her sister’s home. She seeks solace in group therapy, disastrous Tinder dates and finally in the arms of a merman she meets at the beach. However, is he all that he seems and does he really have the solution to all Lucy’s issues?

The Pisces was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction so it was no surprise that this was wonderfully written, both abstract and vivid, universal and bizarre and that I became strangely addicted to it. Yes some of the sex was pretty graphic and the premise a little strange, but Lucy the central character is so relatable and the message about the effect modern dating is having on women was profound.

Initially I had this pegged as a romance novel, something which would be a light read. However, Broder takes on some big issues like depression, addiction and relationships (both healthy and unhealthy). All the women you meet in this story are damaged by love in some way. Lucy is quite literally offered a “fairy-tale man” but this by no means offers her a solution to the crippling emptiness she tries to fill with male affection.

To look at her would be to see the danger I was facing on the other side …. the darkness that inevitably fell when you spent too much time basking in the sun of a man.”

The message is that this kind of love will never leave you feeling fulfilled. It is female relationship, both with her sister and the women she meets in therapy, which offer Lucy some hope of redemption, some means of overcoming her issues and learning to exist in the world.

Final thoughts: The Pisces offers up some sex-positive feminism, a smattering of Greek philosophy, a cautionary tale on loving too desperately and some of the best merman sex you’ll read. It’s an unconventional love story for millennial readers. I was genuinely surprised and delighted by this novel.

What books have you read of late which have totally taken you by surprise?

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