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  • Published: 1 March 2022
  • ISBN: 9780143776895
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 240
  • RRP: $37.00

The Fish

Another powerful, innovative and unique novel from the extraordinary author of the Man-Booker shortlisted Mr Pip.

Then she lifts the Fish up from the bassinet and holds him out to me.
‘Go on, take him.’ And to the Fish she says, ‘This is your uncle.’
I manage to clap my hands either side of the fish bundle. But I feel like I am holding an expensive glass. Once you’re told not to drop it, all you can think of is the glass shattering across the floor.

When the baby is born—in a shabby caravan at a beach campground—it’s clear he is not like other babies. But the family will try hard to protect and love and accept him. Perhaps all the more to make up for letting his troubled mother down.

The young uncle grapples with his connection to the Fish. And as he tries to understand his family and its confusing secrets and shame, his sense of his own place in the world begins to crumble.

Lloyd Jones’s unique lyrical style is mesmerising in this tender story of family bonds, both strained and strengthened by tragedy, and the redemptive power of writing.

  • Published: 1 March 2022
  • ISBN: 9780143776895
  • Imprint: Penguin
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 240
  • RRP: $37.00

About the author

Lloyd Jones

Lloyd Jones is one of New Zealand's best known contemporary writers. He has published essays and children's books, his distinctive works including the novels The Book of Fame, winner of numerous literary awards, Biografi, a New York Times Notable Book, Choo Woo, Here at the End of the World We Learn to Dance, Paint Your Wife, Hand Me Down World, The Cage, The Fish, and the phenomenally successful Mister Pip, winner of the 2007 Commonwealth Writers' Prize, the Montana Medal for Fiction and the Kiriyama Writers' Prize. Mister Pip was also shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2007.

Also by Lloyd Jones

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Praise for The Fish

Should someone ask what it is “about”, we might offer a precis of events, but that would be a meagre answer, and not do justice to it. With a writer as skilled as Jones, we need to add that his language often extends to so much more than he describes; that, like good poetry, it demands we attend to what it suggests, what hovers there, seemingly just out of reach. It can be like hearing a new piece of music we’re not at first sure about. Of course we’re not. Because we’ve not heard anything quite like it before. It’s asking us to go beyond cosy expectations. As a reader, there’s an excitement with that, even if the puzzle remains. . . The end brings us back to what is so much a mark of Lloyd Jones’s constant questing about for how something is to be told, but not in a way that’s been used before. So often it has struck me, how his sense of the writer’s calling is the lodestar in so much of his work. Part of this is to take his readers seriously, to assume they will accept their part in this business of “fiction”. As much as with Mr Pip, writing itself is floated as redemptive. . . I imagine Janet Frame not too far from the story’s relentless demand that we look at ourselves, at what we don’t and can’t fully understand. The Fish is in the same country as her own unrelenting riffs on what we are. Only with Jones, there is so much more humanity, so little of her delight in punishing us for what can’t be helped.

Vincent O'Sullivan, The Spinoff

Some works of art are pure gifts: they seem to arrive unplanned with no self-conscious declaration of design. . . Now 16 years after Mister Pip, one of most innovative political novels, for which Lloyd Jones won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, the New Zealand writer has written a fairytale of pure invention: a family story about a young woman who gives birth to a fish. . . one of the striking things about Jones is how different each of his books can be . . . The Fish is sheer pleasure, with its absurdist premise, sentimental narrative and picaresque structure. . . . This is not, however, only a funny book. It is wry and wistful and contains a romantic episode tinged with tragedy that is as moving as it is surprising. The Fish is a novel with a lot of notes in its repertoire, and unexpected swerves between poignancy and hilarity. . . . Jones is an extremely variegated writer who can turn effortlessly from realistic political parable to this kind of jeu d’esprit. He provides intense pleasure for those who want to swim in his stories.

Vanessa Francesca, The Sydney Morning Herald

It is a strange but ultimately beautiful story, marked by tragedy and human warmth. . . . But this is really a novel about what happens when someone not like us joins the family. The idea of a fish growing up as a boy alone would hardly sustain a novel, but this goes well beyond that. Jones' Fish reveals how people react or grow to care for someone who is not like them. It is the ultimate test of character, really. . . . The prose is elegant and honest. Each sentence is set down with purpose and clarity. The later fragments which border on poetry hint at the ultimate incompleteness of memory and do well to finish off this story.

Jasper Lindell, The Canberra Times

Acclaimed New Zealand writer Lloyd Jones has chosen a quote by Polish-American poet Czeslaw Milosz to open his latest novel, The Fish. "When a writer is bornin onto a family, the family is finished." I found myself leaning heavily into it while reading The Fish. By the end, I'd enjoyed the journey very much, but also found myself curious about what was off the beaten track. . . . Through the eyes of the narrator - who is now a late-middle-aged man writing this story - we watch the Fish grow up. The dysfunctional family slowly collapses as the weight of both protecting and being ashamed of the creature becomes too heavy a burden to bear. Jones showcased his mastery of restrained prose in his novel, The Cage. Here, again, his tone is pitch perfect. It's also a gripping, unputdownable yarn, with characters that are complex and flawed - just how we like them. . . . The writing is lyrical, often poetic, with imagery so vivid I'm already visualising the movie. The ending, located in a real 1960s New Zealand tragedy, is brilliantly drawn and especially poignant. . . . Perhaps this is the point of the novel: the perpetual lack of agency of those destined to remain othered in a world where difference is barely tolerated, let alone embraced.

Sue Orr, Listener

It's a really devastating novel in many ways but on reflection the book has really haunted me . . . it really sticks in your brain . . . I think it's a really interesting novel and I expect it to be talked about . . . it is interestingly treated, I think the fable element is really curious and I think will get people wondering.

Claire Mabey, Radio New Zealand

This is a terrific book . . . your immediate reaction to the book is that you have a tension about what is going to happen and what this child looks like . . . it's a story of a family that comes beautifully to life . . . I thought it was very good, his prose is fantastic because each little bit of the story leads you on to another bit quite cleverly but the writing is very simple but meaningful all the way.

Bruce McKenzie, Radio NZ

With each novel he writes, Lloyd Jones further establishes himself as a must-read author, primarily on account of his risk-taking: daring to poke a stick at the more disturbing aspects of life, not shying away from creating discomfort in the reader. Also admirable is the way he so fully and lyrically conveys characters, tone, era and events with so few brush strokes. The Fish is a compelling tale of abandonment and acceptance, hostility and hope.

Stacey Anyan, NZ Booklovers

Awards & recognition

Ockham New Zealand Book Awards

Longlisted  •  2023  •  Ockham Book Awards