Can a book be scary/creepy, haunting, disturbing, poetic and romantic all at the same time? Apparently so. Like the fish in its title, there is something about The Bright Fish…starting with the cover…that is hard to resist, even when you want to. There were times while reading it when I was almost overwhelmed with the eeriness of it all, but curiosity about where the story would go next combined with a real affection for the 2 main characters (as well as some of the eccentric minor ones) made me stay and keep reading.
The book is about many things – romantic love, connection, life, and death, told through the voice of Hugo, a 20-year-old who has won a cruise on The Aurora and has brought his girlfriend, with whom he is very much in love, along with him. Their innocence and attachment to each other is set in stark contrast to the unnerving and disturbing events that are about to unfold about The Aurora.
The sense of foreboding that underpins this book begins on the very first page, when we find the couple confined to their cabin by order of the ship’s captain because of the sudden death of a fellow passenger. Whether this passenger is actually alive, dead or somewhere in between later becomes a very real question as the couple become immersed in the disturbing atmosphere aboard the Aurora. I will not give away any plot details, except to say that throughout the voyage, the young lovers and their shipmates are followed by a group of brightly colored fish that will not leave the waters beside the Aurora. There is something both ominous and hypnotic about the fish. As they continue to shadow the ship, the events on board become darker and darker, and the bright fish come to have a greater meaning.
One of the descriptions I read of this book classified it as “paranormal” and while that is technically true, this is not a ghost story or thriller in the vein of a traditional paranormal thriller, like “The Amityville Horror”. The paranormal is used here, I think, more symbolically, not as a device to move the plot forward. That said, you cannot help but have a sense of foreboding and lingering sadness while reading it. This is a beautifully written, lyrical novel and highly recommended.
About the Author
J.J. Ward writes espionage thrillers, romantic fiction, philosophy and poetry. He believes that commercial genres have warped people’s thinking about fiction generally. “I think they exist so readers can be easily manipulated and milked, and they also – in some of their forms – perpetuate sexism. Any good story has elements of most, if not all, genres.” He hopes men & women will read, and enjoy, what he has written in equal numbers.
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