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The Octopus and I

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  609 ratings  ·  125 reviews
A stunning debut novel set on the Tasmanian coast that lays bare the wild, beating heart at the intersection of human and animal, love and loss, and fear and hope.

Lucy and Jem live on the Tasman Peninsula near Eaglehawk Neck, where Lucy is recovering from major surgery. As she tries to navigate her new body through the world, she develops a deep fascination with the local
Paperback, 368 pages
Published April 15th 2020 by Allen & Unwin
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Average rating 4.11  · 
Rating details
 ·  609 ratings  ·  125 reviews

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It’s hard to believe that this book The Octopus and I is a debut novel. What a beautiful and captivating novel, it is.

This truly is a breathtaking and extremely interesting read and one in which I found very difficult to put down. Lucy and her husband Jem live on the Tasman Peninsula near Eaglehawk Neck. It is here where Lucy is recovering from major surgery. Being a breast cancer survivor has not only made Lucy look at her life differently, but it has also caused a great impact on her husbands
Apr 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The Octopus and I is the first novel by Australian author, Erin Hortle. The answer to Harry Seaborne’s innocently asked question is “breasts”. That is what his mother, Flo, and Lucy Allenby are knitting. After Lucy provides the short explanation, Harry expresses interest in the long version, and Lucy obliges.

The story she tells Harry and Flo isn’t the whole story; the whole story is what Lucy gives the reader. And not just Lucy: the narrative is carried by other (human) characters, who share cer
Gloria Arthur
Apr 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: the-bookshelf
The Octopus and I is an impressive debut novel by talented author Erin Hortle. The writing is highly creative with multiple layers and total uniqueness.

Lucy is a recovering breast cancer survivor who is contemplating the acceptance of her body after her reconstructive surgery and other's people’s reactions to it.

She grows a strong fascination with the local octopuses. Lucy becomes captivated with these sea creatures that proceed to make a significant mark on her life and helps her to reconnect
Jul 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is an impressive debut novel with a beautiful cover. It tells of the struggle of a young woman trying to come to terms with her new body following mastectomy and treatment for breast cancer and the impact of this on her relationship with her partner.

Lucy and Jem live near Eaglehawk neck, a rugged, beautiful part of the coastline on the Tasman Peninsula. The area is replete with wildlife including seals, mutton birds and octopuses. It is while Lucy is out catching octopus to preserve with tw
Deborah Ideiosepius
First of all, I want to thank Allen & Unwin for my advance copy in return for an honest review. Second I want to thank the author for writing such a charming and engrossing debut novel.

The Octopus and I revolves around Lucy who has recently had breast cancer with the attendant surgeries and chemotherapy. She is struggling to find her sense of self and her relationship with her partner Jem is suffering.

Lucy is our central focus for the narration, but the actual theme, the one that I so thoroughly
Apr 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I’m reviewing this for publication so all I will say here is this will definitely be on my favourite fiction of the year list.
Michael Livingston
Apr 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is another Australian book interested in non-human experiences (off-hand, I can think of Flames, From the Wreck and The Animals in That Country from recent years). Hortle sets short animal-focussed narratives alongside the main plot, which delves into lots interesting themes (the body, cultural practices, environmentalism, gender, power, hypocrisy). It's a really impressive debut. ...more
May 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
This is a beguiling and unusual novel, the author Erin Hortle's first.
At Eaglehawk Neck, which leads to the Tasman Peninsula in Tasmania's south-east, Lucy is gradually rebuilding her life and relationship with her changed body after major surgery and treatment for pre-menopausal breast cancer. Her relationship with her partner, abalone diver Jem, has shifted as they both try to deal with the new reality and navigate a future together.
One night, while wandering the Neck in the moonlight, Lucy c
Apr 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: c21st, australia, 20review
The Octopus and I is a most interesting debut from Tasmanian author Erin Hortle. It has an original premise: a young woman struggling with her body image after radical surgery for cancer forms a semi-symbiotic relationship with an octopus...

Yes, it sounds bizarre, and the opening chapter narrated by an octopus is a risky introduction which at six pages tested my patience, but the next chapter morphs into the cruel reality of the young woman unsure of her sexual identity or even who she is. Lucy'
Pauline [paulineisreading]
THE OCTOPUS AND I BY ERIN HORTLE is a debut novel set on a rural Tasmanian coast where nature and animals play such a significant part in the book, it’s like as if they’re some of the characters themselves. Lucy is a recovering breast cancer survivor who’s trying to come to terms with her new body after going through a double mastectomy. Along the way, she finds herself resonating with the local octopuses and develops a strong fascination towards them. Meanwhile, we also look at her relationship ...more
Sep 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I thought this book was absolutely fascinating. Intelligent, insightful and innovative. Although in one sense the story arc was fairly traditional, the manner of its telling was not. I don’t like to make synopses of plots so I shall just leave that remark there.
Particular points of interest.
Most of the story is about a young woman who has had a double mastectomy and who is coming to terms with it. (Neither I nor the author have had that experience, but I imagine the effects have been well rese
Aug 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely stunning. Loved every part of it. Nicely structured with quirky sections on octopuses, seals & mutton birds. Very believable characters in a compelling story. A thought provoking examination of the personal experience of how the body changes & recovers from cancer treatment. Can't recommend it more highly. ...more
Cass Moriarty
Jul 21, 2020 rated it really liked it
The Octopus and I (Allen and Unwin 2020), the debut novel by Erin Hortle, is an experimental meditation on illness, grief, loss and our interconnectedness with the natural world. In rich, lush description and lyrical writing, the story explores how we feel about our bodies, how we navigate our relationships, and the subtle undertow of communication between humans and nature. It raises ethical issues about body image, feminism, environmentalism, sustainability, fidelity and loyalty to memory.
Susie Cretan
Mar 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book. Quintessentially Tasmanian. Well researched, so imaginative, with so many beautiful layers. Had me thinking about it for such a long time. The non-human narratives are so captivating (I never knew it was possible to feel such empathy for a seal!). Such a relatable, easy to follow literary read that is guaranteed to transport you to the Tasman peninsula and feel all the feels of becoming fascinated by something that you don't quite understand... and needing a connect ...more
Rosie Hunt
Feb 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A beautifully written story about a woman’s relationship to her body and the world around her, and the way both change after she recovers from cancer. I loved this book for its down-to-earth characters, nuanced exploration of ideas, and its thoughtful depiction of Tassie and its inhabitants.
This novel captivated me. It's not necessarily one genre, but rather pulls together threads of contemporary, ecological, and Australian fiction. I was surprised by some of the turns of the novel and outraged by others but, despite these turns, it holds itself together to deliver a compelling and satisfactory ending.

I picked it for its curious discussion of gender and self. Lucy is recovering from breast cancer, grappling with her infertility, and not quite sure how she fits into her body anymor
Lauren Young
Aug 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
5 stars for a lot of reasons. I am only going to write a few of those reasons and you are just going to have to read it for yourself to figure out the other reasons so here goes:
1: I am Tasmanian (grew up on the west coast currently live in the south) i know this isnt the actual reason for the 5 stars however knowing where the author is refering to made this story even more alive for me. I hate the traffic in Davey Street even though it is only one way it still sucks.
2: Mutton birds. Lets put th
Emi Doi
Aug 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
A stunningly beautiful, evocative, thoughtful and inspiring novel, with sounds, sights and smells of the Tasmanian coastline and it’s wild and wonderful inhabitants - both human, and non-human. I quickly fell in love with this book and its main protagonist Lucy, who seemed so much like a familiar friend in her approach to landscapes, relationships, feminism and bodily experience. Such a pleasure and a joy to read, even in its more melancholy moments.
Lara (luellabella✂️)
Dec 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
3.5 strange stars, rounded up because some parts were absolutely beautiful. This is a tricky book to review because I loved and hated bits. The animal hunting scenes were incredibly difficult to read and made me want to put the book down, but the characters were beautifully developed and sections of the story were hauntingly beautiful. I’m glad I persevered and finished it, even though it was a struggle at times. Certainly a thought provoking novel!
Carolyn Taylor
Nov 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020-books-read
A quick easy read, but so engaging and it had many aspects which reminded me of my childhood, as well as my ongoing journey with breast cancer. I think this one will stay with me for a long time!

So many of Lucy's feelings and emotions resonated with me. It was quite comforting in a weird way to feel as though someone else 'gets it'.

I really enjoyed Erin's writing style. It flowed and the descriptions made me feel as though I was there, experiencing everything along with the characters. I enjoyed
Rod Hunt
Jun 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
An amazing novel. Contemporary and timeless. Insight into what it means to be human - and not! Captures Eaglehawk Neck perfectly - wild and tamed (but not for long). Tasmanian and world ecological and sustainability and species “hierarchy” issues. Highly recommended!!
Apr 23, 2020 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

The Octopus and I is the story of Lucy who lives on the south east peninsula of Tasmania, an hour out of Hobart. She’s just had a full mastectomy and is struggling to navigate her new body into her everyday life. Whilst out one night, Lucy tries to save an octopus from being hit by a car only to be hit herself.

Lucy survives the car accident but it sees her develop a fascination with octopuses which effects her mind and body in ways that she can’t even quite understand. As her fascinatio
I became totally absorbed in this novel, I could feel and empathise with all the tumultuous feelings that Lucy, the main character was feeling and dealing with. Lucy has survived breast cancer, with her 'fake' new breasts, she feels she has lost who she is and what her body means to her now. While I thankfully haven't had to deal with this myself, I could still understand and empathise with Lucy and her struggle to love her body again. 

I really slowed down to read this novel, it was beautifully
May 18, 2020 rated it really liked it
3.5 Stars.
I really enjoyed this book, it was such a unique reading experience that I flew through.
This is a hard-to-categorise story about Lucy, a young woman recovering from breast cancer who has an affinity for octopuses (sounds weird right? But this actually works so well).
If you wanted to pick up a book that felt quintessentially Australian, this would be one I highly recommend. Erin Hortle has done a great job of making use of the Australian language and the Australian landscape.
Hortle exp
Myf Williams
May 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I was so engaged reading this beautiful book. I particularly enjoyed how the characters were quite flawed but you still felt invested in their lives. When you tell people you are reading the book that is sometimes narrated from the perspective of a seal it sounds weird but I fully believed I was reading the thoughts of a seal in those passages. I can’t wait to book a trip down to Tassie.
Oct 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
'Your beak will tug you into flock.
No bird is only an I. We are bigger than that.
We span the world, we span the world. '

If you have ever wondered what a mutton bird is saying to it's chick when it is feeding it, there you go 👍

This book is edged with beautiful chapters from the perspective of the Wildlife that dwell around the Tasmanian coastline. They are captivating and enhance the story in surprising and heartbreaking ways.

We meet Lucy who is recovering after breast cancer, and having a dou
Katey Flowers
May 13, 2021 rated it it was ok
2.5 stars. This was a much anticipated read for me, but it didn’t quite live up to expectations. The author’s voice was so strong and beautiful I often forgot it was a debut, and I loved the salty, rich Tasmanian setting. There were elements of the narrative I really enjoyed, especially around the main character’s experience with breast cancer and particularly her journey of reconnecting with and understanding her body before and after breast implants. But the environmental element really didn’t ...more
Georgie K Todman
Dec 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: aussie-author
A wonderful debut set in the Tasmanian peninsula. Essentially it's the story of a young woman coming to terms with changes to her body after battling breast cancer. I enjoyed reading the chapters from the different sea creature's perspectives and how the author intertwined their story with Lucy's, was both unique and clever. I look forward to reading more from this author.
With thanks to Allen & Unwin for my ARC to read and review.
Robyn Greaves
Mar 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This brilliant book stayed with me long after I'd finished it. There are so many layers to the novel: disease and the body, human/non-human relationships, friendship, love, identity. Hortle's descriptions of the Tasman Peninsula in south-east Tasmania are so evocative you become immersed in the environment and the lives of the characters. I particularly enjoyed the unique and refreshing writing - Hortle engages the reader with her down-to-earth and humorous style, but the writing is also beautif ...more
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Erin Hortle is a Tasmanian-based writer. Her short fiction and essays have been published in a range of Tasmanian and Australian publications. The majority of her academic and creative writing explores the ways in which experimental approaches to writing might facilitate new ways of imagining the human's relationship with the more than human world, with a distinctly feminist bent. Topics she write ...more

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