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Fen

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3.64  ·  Rating details ·  2,350 ratings  ·  351 reviews
The Fen is a liminal land. Real people live their lives here. They wrestle with sex and desire, with everyday routine. But the wild is always close at hand, ready to erupt.

This is a place where animals and people commingle and fuse, where curious metamorphoses take place, where myth and dark magic still linger. So here a teenager may starve herself into the shape of an eel
...more
Paperback, 195 pages
Published June 8th 2017 by Vintage (first published June 2nd 2016)
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Average rating 3.64  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,350 ratings  ·  351 reviews


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Amalia Gavea
‘’Remember about the albatrosses? We got one on our trail now. I didn’t know what it was when I saw it. It was too big to be anything real. I keep thinking about them carrying dead sailors around them.’’


I am ashamed to say that I was completely ignorant of the existence of this book. It wasn’t included in any of the recommending reading lists I receive and I hadn’t read any review of it on Goodreads. I had the luck to become aware of it after a suggestion by the wonderful Jen Campbell in one
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Paul
A collection of short stories as a literary debut which are really difficult to classify but are impressive. They are set in the fens. The fenlands cover parts of East Anglia, Cambridgeshire and southern Lincolnshire. I am a Lincolnshire lad: I wasn’t born or brought up in the fens, but I know them fairly well. One thing you do get a lot of in the fens is eels (not quite as many as there used to be). Coincidentally I went to a farmers market this morning and inevitably there were eels (filleted ...more
Hugh
Apr 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2018, modern-lit
Daisy Johnson's first novel Everything Under was one of the highlights of this year's Man Booker longlist, so I was very keen to get hold of a copy of this collection of stories, which is also very accomplished for such a young writer.

This collection is slippery, liminal and atmospheric, blending fairytale elements with the lives of real people and an earthy sexuality. The most impressive and fully formed story is The Scattering, which is also the longest. Its narrator is the younger sister of a
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Gumble's Yard
Sep 11, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
I came to this book, after reading Daisy Johnson’s wonderful Everything Under – a book I described, alliteratively as a “literary novel of the liminal, language, leaving and legend, longlisted for the 2018 Man Booker prize.”

Many reviews of that book have I feel concentrated on the legend part, an even within that legend part on the Greek legend whose plot underlies the novel (and looking for other Greek parallels) whereas I saw the other elements of equal importance and the legend part as drawin
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Jonathan Pool
I read Fen on the back of the 2018 Booker shortlisted Everything Under
Fen was written some two years previously. Its a collection of short stories, and had received praise from a relatively small number of readers.
The stories are in many ways more striking than the better known Everything Under, and this is in part the nature of short stories that cannot meander (Sarah Hall's term for the more forgiving nature of longer novels).
Daisy Johnson doesn’t meander here; the majority of the stories ar
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Sarah Davies
It is going to be very difficult to knock this off the spot of best book of the year for me.

I have always enjoyed books set around harsh landscapes (am I the only person to find Wuthering Heights a 'cosy' novel?) and that is part of what this book is, set on the flat english Fenlands, is. It also appeals to the small town/village girl in me.

The writing is beautiful, and made the elements of magic injected into most of the stories completely plausible, as well as being magical each was so human
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Reviews May Vary
I listened to this on Lavar Burton reads. #ReadingRainbowforAdults
Katia N
It is a debut collection by a loosely related short stories. They are all set in the east part of England with its plains, canals, river estuaries and pylons distorting the horizontality of the place. Miss Johnston’s artistic treatment of the area, her imagination transforms it into weary dark, atmospheric setting. This is the place were young girls are coming of age or becoming mothers without having the time to grow. The border between people and animals are fluid as well. And one cannot easil ...more
Sarah
Apr 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
Some nice writing, but this was unfortunately another letdown for me - though if magical realism is your thing you might find some stories to enjoy here. For me the stories ended up being pretty repetitive, with protagonists which became interchangeable as the collection went on. Like some other reviewers have mentioned, I feel like this could have been more enjoyable if there were fewer stories but they were more fleshed out, as a few of them definitely had potential.
Cinzia DuBois
Jun 22, 2019 rated it it was ok
I'm sorry, I really didn't want to finish this. I just found something very unfinished and alienating about the writing style. I was totally disconnected from each story (which were all somewhat repetitive in nature to the extent that they seemed to blend into one and were, ultimately, forgettable).
Simon
Jun 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A surreal and slightly magical collection of short stories. Talking foxes, possessive houses, relationships, monsters and more. A treat of a collection.
Maddie
Aug 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Daisy Johnson’s debut short story collection “Fen” is a delightful magical collection set in the grassy marshes, forested swamps, and peaty bogs and of the Fen. Mixing reality with folklore, it’s beautiful and lyrical, conjuring an atmospheric setting that leaves you with a strange, eerie feeling in your chest as you read on. Perfect for anyone who loves their short stories with a dash of strange and the peculiar.


Story ratings:

1. Starver - ★★★✩✩
2. Blood Rites - ★★★★★
3. A Bruise the Shape and Siz
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Renee Godding
My Rating: 4/5 stars

“I know who you are though in a moment I will not. It is getting. I do not remember the word. Soon it will be. How easily they go again. There is no loyalty in language. There is no...”

I was first introduced to Daisy Johnsons writing with her debut novel Everything Under, which became one of my favourites of 2019. As such I was very interested to go back and read her collection of short stories, so when my local bookstore had it in stock I couldn’t resist. Overall I really e
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shakespeareandspice
A strong 3.5 stars.

Stories which came after “The Scattering: a story in three parts” faltered for me. The author still has some wicked writing skills so I would love to read more of her work in the future.
Cynthia
Jun 22, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think we all know what it feels like to be on the outside, the spectacle for the spectators. This is a tale about not letting the cacklers get under your skin. About venturing forth, with a purpose, no matter how ridiculous it seems. And giving into the magic of the sea, the creatures, and the belief that I'm not crazy! I cared for the woman and her struggles; great listen, read by Levar Burton!!!
Miranda
Jan 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up from my local library after seeing Jeff VanderMeer tweet about it. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I figured it would probably be a bit strange. And I was not wrong. I was very intrigued by the weirdness of some of the stories. I had never read anything by Daisy Johnson before, but I’m looking forward to reading more because of Fen.

Overall, I am very glad that I read this collection of short stories. I loved many of them, but others felt like they were lacking something for me
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Jen
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-freebie
Ok, Levar, love you, love you reading to me, don't love this story so much. I just didn't get it. I don't see what he saw in it, about how a lone woman in a non-traditional job was courageous and went after what she wanted, despite the nay-sayers.

I just saw a mentally unbalanced woman and equally imbalanced towns-people who apparently were very bored and used her and her fish as entertainment. Maybe. We saw the others via the MC. She could have been imagining their interest.

2, I wish I could r
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Heather
Apr 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: faves
Real people live their lives here. They wrestle with familiar instincts, with sex and desire, with everyday routine. But the wild is always close at hand, ready to erupt. This is a place where animals and people commingle and fuse, where curious metamorphoses take place, where myth and dark magic still linger. So here a teenager may starve herself into the shape of an eel. A house might fall in love with a girl. A woman might give birth to a – well what?

Daisy Johnson's book came to me by chance.
...more
Ellie
Superbly written but disturbing stories. Although some stories are stronger than others, particularly the first few stories which I thought were the strongest.But for me, the same stories were also creepier than I like. But that's my personal taste.

If you enjoy fiction that plays at the boundaries of the possible, with strange creatures that sometimes become (sort of) human, this is the best of it. Her images of the fens (a marshy, barren area in rural England) and strange goings-on are hauntin
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Whitney
We're not here for a laugh. We're here for the grim determination, overcast skies, lingering dampness...

We see short stories of pale, young women, searching for love and fulfillment. But their environment is fenland, and most of their socialization occurs in pubs, or while fishing. Some travel to a larger town for their jobs. Others are still teens in school.

No one is happy. No one cracks a joke. No one is surprised if a girl slowly transitions into an eel. Or if her boyfriend is raised from his
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Donna Enticknap
Jul 29, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
i liked it. but i was expecting more landscape.. i'd thought that's what the book would be made of, the way other people speak of it.

it is very wild, but somehow also very domestic. i wanted it to break free and run off across the fens and tell me more about that land.

maybe 'the lighthouse keeper' is my favourite, because i like lighthouses and a girl living alone and doing her own thing and celebrating a fish.

but also 'the scattering' which i think was the strongest story. and the longest.

some
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Marc
Already looking forward to reading more of Johnson's work. The first 3 or 4 stories started off so strongly, that I felt a little let down by the end of the collection, but overall, just a wonderful volume. The stories have a haunting quality to them that brings into question the boundaries between human and animal, gender, identity, nature and civilization, etc.

Here's an older video on The Fens (the backdrop of Johnson's stories in this book) from jauntier times:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=
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Anna Baillie-Karas
An extraordinary collection. Spare, accomplished writing with wonderfully controlled weirdness. Characters are raw, honest and sometimes turn into animals. Despite these magical elements, the stories feel poignant, true and rooted in the earth.
M.M.J. Gregory
At some point, I need to accept that I am not fond of fish allegories.
aleks
Johnson's books really frustrate me because they seem to have all the ingredients that usually make me love a book (beautiful but not too flowery writing, complex characters in toxic relationships, weird things happening, swamps) but somehow are not entartaining for me at all. For most of these stories, they were simply too short and they had weird things happening, sure, but there didn't seem to be any logic to it, any sense, any reason. And I don't need everything in books to be logical, I rea ...more
Robert
Dec 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Here’s what you will encounter when reading Daisy Johnson’s short story collection Fen:

Bodies, boats, marshes,eels, good sex, bad sex, confusing sex, weird sex, female emancipation, rivers, foxes, dogs, Albatrosses, flesh, bones, flesh disappearing, flesh reappearing, bicycles, arms, legs, touch, touch, touch, tongue, mouth. Breath a sigh of relief.

Honestly that’s the best way I can describe Daisy Johnson’s unique point of view. In her world women are constantly breaking free from the shackles o
...more
Bill Hsu
Some of the pieces don't work for me, though there are many enjoyable moments (like the longer story "The Scattering", with the off-kilter sibling dynamics and borderline magic realist hints). Johnson writes some excellent punchy sentences:
January Hargrave did not do interviews, was the first woman to win the Grace Heart award, and was filmed, at the after-party, saying that if men fucked one another every time they were angry there'd be so much less shit in the world.

She may not be quite at the
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Betsy Gant
Another short story. Kinda feminist in its nature. If you enjoyed the basic story like "The Old Man and the Sea," then you'll like "The Lighthouse Keeper" (fyi, I can't stand Hemingway). Johnson is a better author than Hemingway. This book is very poetic in its sentence structure. There was probably a ton of symbolism, but I was in a rush to finish it. You don't really need to read this. It was what all short stories should be: short.
Lakshika Ranawat
Jan 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lakshika by: Miguel Morell
We ought to read the kind of books that wound or stab us; If the book we're reading doesn't wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading it for?

FEN by Daisy Johnson is one such, one of a kind, book that I got a chance to read. Loved it!
Peter Mathews
Set in the fens - that is, the reclaimed marshland - of eastern England, this collection of short stories announces the imminent arrival of an important new writer. Imminent, because although Johnson shows a great deal of promise in these pieces, she has not quite yet found her voice and theme.

The best story in the collection is the opening piece, "Starver," which begins by meditating on the bony, inedible eels that the men draining the fens came across, and then transitions into a story about t
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Shortisted for the Man Booker Prize for Everything Under, her debut novel.

Daisy Johnson's début short story collection, Fen, was published by Jonathan Cape on the 2nd of June, 2016 and by Graywolf in 2017.

She has been longlisted for the Sunday Times Short Story Award and the New Angle Award for East Anglian writing. She was the winner of the Edge Hill award for a collection of short stories and t
...more

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