Rebecca's Reviews > The Pisces

The Pisces by Melissa Broder
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really liked it
bookshelves: penguin-first-to-read, read-via-netgalley, laugh-out-loud, fantasy, unreliable-narrator

At first I thought this was one of those funny, quirky but somewhat insubstantial novels about a thirtysomething stuck with a life she isn’t sure she wants – something along the lines of Goodbye, Vitamin, The Portable Veblen, or All Grown Up. Then I thought it was just a crass sex comedy. (Broder is a poet. I can’t begin to imagine what her poetry would be like!) But the further I read the deeper it all seemed to become: tropes from Greek myth and the fluidity of gender roles made me think of You Too Can Have a Body Like Mine, another debut novel that surprised me for its profundity.

Lucy, the narrator, is a thirty-eight-year-old PhD student working in her Arizona college library and trying to expound a groundbreaking theory about the gaps in Sappho’s poetry. After she breaks up with her cheating boyfriend (and breaks his nose), she agrees to spend a summer dog-sitting for her yoga entrepreneur sister in Venice Beach, California while she undertakes therapy for the twin problems of low self-esteem and love addiction. Here she meets a collection of freaks with their own issues – “a multiheaded hydra of desperation” – including a British pal who ends up in a psychiatric hospital. Lucy’s nameless angst is part depression, part being conflicted over having children, and part existential crisis (it’s interesting to keep track of the use of the words “emptiness” [appears nine times] and “nothingness” [appears 57 times!], as well as variations on “mother” and “emotion”).

Now, if you know one thing about this book, it’s that there’s hot merman sex. So yes, after some Internet dating disasters Lucy meets Theo, whom she assumes is a late-night swimmer who just really likes hanging out on the rocks; eventually she realizes he’s a merman with fully working male anatomy and a dedication to pleasing a woman. But because we only know what’s happening from Lucy’s perspective, (view spoiler) At the least, the relationship with him is a means of examining possession and vulnerability and asking whether those have to equate to masculinity and femininity, respectively.

Another, unrelated spoiler point: (view spoiler)

Ultimately, this novel is about “the prison of the body” and choosing which of the different siren voices calling us we’ll listen to. I found it outrageous but rewarding. I’ve got one last thing to say, though: Unless you’re over 70 and talking about my cat, I really don’t want to ever see the word “pussy” again.

Favorite lines:

a description of Jamie, her ex: “the chin disappearing into a soufflé of neck meat”

Theo to Lucy: “You’re like a little death. […] You’re gloomy yet charming. I like it.” – add in something about the oversexed nature and that could be a good description for this book.
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Reading Progress

October 9, 2017 – Shelved
October 9, 2017 – Shelved as: to-read
March 23, 2018 – Shelved as: penguin-first-to-read
March 23, 2018 – Shelved as: read-via-netgalley
April 15, 2018 – Started Reading
April 15, 2018 – Shelved as: laugh-out-loud
April 20, 2018 – Finished Reading
April 21, 2018 – Shelved as: fantasy
April 30, 2018 – Shelved as: unreliable-narrator

Comments Showing 1-8 of 8 (8 new)

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Roman Clodia I was also won over by the hidden depths of this one - and that marvellous cover!


Rebecca Roman Clodia wrote: "I was also won over by the hidden depths of this one - and that marvellous cover!"

Good point -- it's a great one!


Julie Ehlers Great review! I am planning to start this ARC this week. I'm pretty wary but your review definitely makes me more excited to try it.


Rebecca Julie wrote: "Great review! I am planning to start this ARC this week. I'm pretty wary but your review definitely makes me more excited to try it."

I saw that you loved the Sittenfeld story "Gender Studies" -- you could think of this whole novel as an extended, more sexually explicit version of that!


Julie Ehlers Rebecca wrote: "I saw that you loved the Sittenfeld story "Gender Studies" -- you could think of this whole novel as an extended, more sexually explicit version of that!"

Wow, that's interesting! I'll keep that in mind while I'm reading!


Sonia Reppe I thought the same thing about Theo (in my review I said he was a metaphor for depression/obsession/suicide.


message 7: by Cheri (new)

Cheri Loved your review, Rebecca, reviews so rarely make me laugh. Glad you enjoyed!


Rebecca Cheri wrote: "Loved your review, Rebecca, reviews so rarely make me laugh."

Oh, thank you! I guess it was the last line that did it.


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