Originally published: 7 June 2018
Author: Emma Hooper
Published by: Fig Tree
Set in: Newfoundland, Canada
Page count: 318
Reading dates: 1-6 June 2018
Star Rating: 5/5
Set in 1992/1993 and told from the point of view of 10-year-old Finn Conner, 14-year-old sister, Cora and their parents, Aiden and Martha, this book describes the fictional fishing village of Big Running in Newfoundland, Canada. When the book starts, most families have left the island as fishing is the main industry and all the fish have mysteriously disappeared. Finn’s parents, Aiden and Martha spend alternate months working at an energy site hundreds of miles away to support their children.
There is no school on the island and no lessons for the children. Finn develops an obsession with solving the mystery of the missing fish, with the help his accordion teacher Mrs Callaghan. Cora spends her days decorating the abandoned houses as different countries – the bakers house becomes Italy, another becomes Russia, Mexico and Britain until almost all the house have a national identity.
The book also looks to the past (early 1970s) and looks at Aiden and Martha as teenagers. Martha loses her parents at a young age and lives with her sisters. One night she hears what she thinks is a mermaid singing out at sea and spends her evenings sitting on the beach listening to the songs. Aiden is a fisherman from Little Running and we discover what happens when they meet.
As the emotional distance between Aiden and Martha widens, Cora runs away from the island, desperate for a bigger life than her home can offer.
I loved this book – the writing is sublime and I felt transported to the remote fishing village. The description of the landscape and the way of life for the family are marvellous. I also liked the retrospective nature of the book – by looking back at Aiden and Martha’s relationship, we see what Big Running was like when it was a thriving community which makes us understand why the family find it so hard to leave. I can’t recommend this highly enough.
Thank you for Fig Tree / Penguin Random House for sending me a copy of this book.
About the author:
Emma Hooper is the Canadian author of Etta and Otto and Russell and James. As a musician, she tours internationally. She is also a research-lecturer in music at Bath Spa University.