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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Fish in the Sky
by Fridrik Erlings
Age Range: 12+
Josh muses that he is ‘a year closer to being considered a grown-up ..... But until then I’m just as far from being considered a grown up as I am from being a child; I’m the missing link in the evolution of Homo sapiens’. As Josh Stephenson starts his 13th year, his life begins to change. Josh misses the dad he hardly sees. His father works on the cargo ship, the Orca and since his mum and dad split up six years before, Josh has only seen him infrequently. When 17 year old cousin Trudy moves into their house with his bedroom becoming a corridor to her room he feels that his private space has been invaded. His mother works long hours and doesn’t appear to notice how Josh feels. As he begins to question the meaning of life and creation, he finds himself trapped hiding in the bathroom while Trudy is having a bath and from then on everything changes, not least himself. He plays truant from school, rebels against his teachers and experiences pangs of a ‘first love’ as he searches for answers to explain the way he feels.
“My childhood has faded like a bright summer day ...... That day has now come to evening. Before me is the black forest of my grown up years ....... I’ve been pushed forwards and there’s no turning back. I’m empty inside, like the curled up skin from an apple”.
Fish in the Sky is a powerful piece of literature that endeavours to explore the juxtaposition of teenage angst and sexual awakening. Complex moral questions, full of literary symbolism, are posed by the teenage protagonist, with no simple solution ever offered. It tackles serious themes, but always with an equal measure of compassion and humour. This is an exceptional ‘coming of age’ book that will particularly appeal to teenage boys as it captures the difficult but exciting transition from childhood to adolescence.
Erling’s mother tongue is Icelandic, but his knowledge of the English language and his eloquent and beautiful prose combine to make this an outstanding novel. The book is dedicated to the memory of Bernard Scudder whose translation of Fish in the Sky was discovered and was immensely helpful during the editing process. This is the second novel from the multi-award winning author of Benjamin Dove.