Monday, 4 July 2022

Seek The Singing Fish by Roma Wells

Seek The Singing Fish by Roma Wells
Published by Epoque Press on the 23rd June 2022.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher 

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Growing up in the lagoon town of Batticaloa, a young girl with an unquenchable curiosity and love of the natural world, is entangled in the trauma and turmoil of the Sri Lankan civil war. Uprooted from everything she holds dear, tragedy and betrayal set in motion an unforgettable odyssey. Torn from east to west, struggling with what it means to belong, she desperately seeks a way home to the land of the singing fish.

Seek The Singing Fish is such an amazing novel. I'm struggling to know how to start this review without just breathlessly fangirling which wouldn't really suit this book's themes. It is a deep exploration of how Sri Lanka's civil war completely devastated so many families, and also a portrait of a young nature-obsessed girl, Artemila, growing up amidst the carnage. It illustrates the horror that is human trafficking, and shows how incredibly resilient people can be when they can still just about cling to a sliver of hope. I loved spending hours in Artemila' company as she chats directly to the reader, alternating between dropping amazing nuggets of information about animals and birds around the world, then describing scenes of chilling violence and inhumanity taking place right before her eyes. The contrasts are what particularly made this novel stand out for me. Artemila has great reserves of inner strength, inspired by the strong relationship she had with her father, but even she must occasionally turn from the page, not narrating a particular scene to us readers, and those moments were the grimmest of all.

Thinking back over Seek The Singing Fish now, there is so much darkness in this story, yet I didn't actually find it a depressing book to read. Saddening at times, certainly, but Artemila's memories of happier times and the sporadic kindnesses from some people she encounters give us light, plus she can always divert herself - and us - with a relevant nature factlet, setting human behaviours against those of the animal kingdom. (We humans don't bear these comparisons well.) Seek The Singing Fish shows so clearly how wars don't end with the ceasefire. The mental and physical damage lasts for lifetimes. Ultimately, there is hope and the promise of finding some kind of reconciliation, a return to some form of home even with so much lost. This novel is an intense emotional rollercoaster yet is also very readable. It's very likely to be my Book of the Month and might just make my Book of the Year too.

Bookishly Inspired Find!
by Neckahneck

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Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Roma Wells / War fiction / Books from Sri Lanka

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