The Fisherman by John Langan

The Fisherman is completely unassuming in its pace, tone and the way it has been written by John Langan, but I was thoroughly swept up in the story being told and the style of it all. Hardly ever reaching moments of high excitement, but when the moments do build to a crescendo, they are utterly superb.

Telling the tale of a widower, Abraham, as he struggles to make sense of the world and his life after losing his wife, Marie, descending into a morose, self-abusing cycle. But when he finds some small modicum of respite in fishing, his life is again something worth sticking with. A tragic, fatal accident leaves a co-worker, Dan, alone without his wife and young, twin sons and he too finds his life a distant second to the memory of his lost family. A burgeoning friendship based around mutual loss and fishing begins.

From the surface, The Fisherman is a story about loss, grief and finding solace in something else, something to take the mind away from the things too hard to keep hold of, no matter how much you really want to keep hold of them. But, the narrative takes an unexpected turn as we are relayed a different story that takes up the majority of the pages and fleshes out the book, giving a framework and a history with which to understand events. Incorporating different times and lifestyles, all tied together in some way (or at least some way you don’t know of yet, but it is definitely moving towards), you are transported so wonderfully into the different places and ages that you can almost feel the rain pouring down onto you or the crashing of the waves on the shore.

Langan blends the fantastic with the everyday perfectly, as if either end of this spectrum was always going to happen and it was entirely expected. When he does choose to bring in the otherworldly events, the ideas being used are almost inconceivable and it is hard to get your head around the enormity of it all at times. But those brief moments at the edge of the water at the black ocean were some of the best of the book in terms of tension and excitement as Langan turns it up a notch but without relinquishing his languid style.

The way that The Fisherman is laid out had me constantly thinking about Inception’s “dream within and dream within a dream” as I realised I was reading a “story within a story within a story”, which blew my mind a little (as did the film to be fair!). But getting past this side note, John Langan’s writing is superb, the characters are comfortable and realistic and the slowly, ever building unknown threat is almost unbearable at times. I just wanted to know where it was all going, but also didn’t as the journey to get there was so well done.


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