Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Magical Realism, Erotica
The Pisces is the most infamous book I’ve seen in a while, getting the same kind of reaction from people as did Fifty Shades of Grey when it came out – a snobbish dismissal and fascinated curiosity. When it came out, the only blurb I heard of was this was a book about fish sex. Then it made the longlist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction and I heard people I really trusted saying that this book was amazing and to disregard its abysmal 3.23 rating on Goodreads. I am SO thankful for those people convincing me to read it! So shout-out to the Women’s Prize Squad: Hannah, Sarah, Callum, Steph and Rachel. Definitely check out their reviews, they’re amazing.
The Pisces is the story of Lucy, a woman who has been writing her dissertation for years without really going anywhere with it. She’s very close to losing her scholarship because of the delay and, to make matters a thousand times worse, her boyfriend Jamie suddenly breaks up with her. After an incident that ended with Jamie in the hospital with a broken nose and her eating donuts on the road, Lucy is forced to participate in group therapy and move into her sister’s home in Venice, where she is forced to face her addiction to romance and sex, while meeting up with catastrophic Tinder dates and watching things start to spiral out of control.
Trigger warnings: severe depression, suicide attempts, toxic relationships.
The first thing that I loved about this book is how real the mental issues that Lucy struggles with feel. Do not be misled by the blurb or by the fact that The Pisces will have you laughing out loud: this book is surprisingly dark. I’ve suffered from depression for years, and a lot of the scenes in the book were a bit triggering, which for me was okay because I’m on a healthy mental state. But the descriptions of the desperation, the pain, the lack of love for oneself that so many of the characters showed broke my heart. They were all so very lonely. I love this trend now in fiction to have realistic depictions of mental health issues where you’re actually laughing. Fighting depression can be dark, lonely and heavy, so it’s refreshing to laugh a bit at your own darkness.
This was so well done that I found myself relating to Lucy a lot, despite us being so different and despite the fact that our mental illnesses were so different, too. The author did a great job into getting the reader into Lucy’s mind and her loneliness.
There is a lot of sex in the book. A LOT. And not all of it is sexy and steamy, a couple of the scenes might actually make you a bit disgusted.
The most beautiful thing about this book is how well it does allegory. Magical realism is a very difficult genre to pull off, and making the magical part fit perfectly into a contemporary world is hard – but it’s done really well in The Pisces. You can see in the gorgeous, seductive, sensitive merman all the things that make mental illness so difficult to get away from. It does really feel like your illness (also addiction) is the only one who understands you and feels like you do – almost a little bit mythical and too magical for this world. The contrast of that and the dog – allegory for pure, instinctive, selfless love – was wonderful to read. The psychological depth of this book is my favorite thing about it.
This was an engrossing, brilliant and surprisingly quick read, and I desperately need to re-read it.