The Pisces - Melissa Broder

March 7, 2018

3/5 Stars


Unsettling, unpleasant and even upsetting at times, but compelling nonetheless.

Usually, when I finish a book, I know exactly what rating I'm going to give it. Then, every so often, I come across a book that leaves me totally confused at the end, and unable to untangle my thoughts on it. This is one of those books. 

Lucy has just broken up with her boyfriend. One complete breakdown involving doughnuts and physical assault later, she ends up on Venice Beach, living in her sister's home and babysitting her dog, Dominic. 

She's also attending a group therapy session for love addicts; filled with women who she mocks ruthlessly. After hooking up with a couple of guys for casual sex, she meets a lone swimmer in the sea, who says his name is Theo. Turns out that Theo is a merman, and lo and behold, they end up having a racy love affair, involving lots of complexities brought about by their difference in bodily form. 

At the end, she has a tough decision to make - the big question is, does she make the right one?

Okay, so let's start with what I did like about this book. I loved the author's writing style. It's full of sass and brutal, unapologetic honesty, and it was compelling to read. In spite of the way-out-there storyline, it felt convincing, which is a hard thing to pull off. 

I also appreciated the exploration of love addiction. There were several sections that felt very raw and emotional (without descending into slushy sentimentality) - and these moments really grabbed my attention. They were definitely the stand-out parts. 

However, I'll be honest, there was quite a lot about this book that I really didn't like at all. It's unusual for me to have such a visceral reaction - I'm normally quite mild-mannered in my approach. BUT - that in itself is interesting, and shouldn't be disregarded. After all, the author made me feel something. I may not have enjoyed those feelings, but it's better than being bored, eh? 

The overtly explicit sex scenes were (in my opinion) way over the top and unnecessary. There seemed to be endless descriptions of her receiving oral sex and these were the sections that I found tedious. To be honest, I think there are many ways to convey sex in a book without resorting to very long, drawn-out, graphic descriptions - it's a shame, because her writing was cleverly crafted aside from this. 

The biggest problem area for me, though, was Lucy herself - and her vile, vile actions. I know, I know; she's an addicted character, and we as readers are meant to see just how self-centred an addiction can make you. I didn't necessarily have an issue with her behaviour itself, as I realise it illustrated the point. What I did have a massive problem with was that the author didn't seem to be condemning the behaviour. She essentially treats her co-therapy women with utter contempt and mockery - but this is all conveyed as a good laugh. She treats men as disposable items, and again, this seems to be passed off as totally acceptable. And as for what she does to the dog? I'm a massive animal-lover, so it probably upset me more than most - but it was horrible. Her pseudo-remorse afterwards made it even worse. 

Likewise, the sudden flip at the end, of making the merman a kind of villain...hang on a moment, are we meant to sympathise with Lucy? Are we meant to think 'oh okay, you completely used him, but now you're within your rights to judge him then walk away'? I didn't like it - sorry! 

Ahem. (Note to self to calm down). I'd just like to emphasise, for the record, that I do appreciate that the book got me ranting and raging a little. I'd much rather experience some sort of emotion while reading, than complete eyelid-drooping ennui. But I'll be honest, it wasn't a pleasurable reading experience for me, hence the rating.


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