Book club, book review

The Pisces by Melissa Broder

Lucy is a student who doesn’t really know what she wants in life, and after an acrimonious break up from her boyfriend. Her sister throws her a lifeline, giving Lucy a break from her desert life in Phoenix, her sister asks Lucy to housesit for her whilst also attending a local therapy group. So Lucy heads to Los Angeles and it’s here that she has an awakening and a lurid affair with a merman.

I read this as this months book club book. The lady that suggested it did mention that there are a fair amount of sex scenes and sexual references so I was prepared. However I must say that, for me, none of the sex scenes were gratuitous, they formed part of the story. If you took out the sex scenes the book really wouldn’t make a lot of sense or would at least be a bit weaker for it. The language she uses isn’t cliche or cringey either (there’s no heaving breasts or throbbing body parts) it’s very ‘real’.

This book is a bit like the ones you’re given to read in English literature classes in school, that are rife with meaning and symbolism that you have no idea about until your teacher points it out. I feel there is a strong feminist message in there somewhere, as most of the women in the book are trying to fight a sexual reliance on men. It’s also heavily underlined by the fact that literally all the male characters are weak in one way or another.
To that point I really did not like Theo, the main love interest. He seemed a bit too weak, not as a character but as a person. This is a book with a strong feminist message, so it wouldn’t do to have your heroine overshadowed by a man so that is understandable. (A little side note, a member of my book group bought up the interesting idea that the ‘weakness’ is just an act and he’s psychologically preying on Lucy’s vulnerability)

There are a lot of references to Sappho, which again I feel hints at a feminist message. I’m sorry to say that even though I am aware of Sappho I have barely any knowledge about her. I have now acquired a couple of books from the library to remedy this.

There were some quite strong opinions on this in book group. Whilst I liked the book for it’s style of writing, one of the other ladies liked it for its controversy, but most of the group really didn’t like it at all. The strong feeling against it came, mostly, from the explicit language that was used, whilst one member was so bewildered by the events within the book she was convinced the main character was just on a big drug trip and hallucinating the whole thing.

A couple of us did take something away from the book, I took away a strong interest in the works of Sappho, and one of the other members took away a deeper understanding of a past friend whose behaviour she recognised in some of the characters in the book.

I think we’re going for something a little less controversial next month

2 thoughts on “The Pisces by Melissa Broder”

  1. Great review, and glad to see this was a mostly good read for you! I also found Theo to become more and more predatory as the novel went on—I’d be interested to reread and see what red flags are planted early on.

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