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Aquarium

by David Vann

Aquarium by David Vann X
Aquarium by David Vann
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  • First Published:
    Mar 2015, 272 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2016, 272 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rory L. Aronsky
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Power Reviewer
Cloggie Downunder

Another excellent offering from David Vann.
“Like a leaf giving birth to stars………..Body of small green leaves, veined, very thin, its fins painted in light cast from elsewhere, but from his eye out his long snout, an eruption of galaxies without foreign source, born in the fish itself. An opening in the small fabric of the world, a place to fall into endlessly.”

Aquarium is the fifth full length novel by American author, David Vann. It is set in 1994 and narrated by twelve-year-old Caitlin Thompson. Caitlin’s world revolves around three important elements: her hardworking single mother, Sheri; her best friend at school, Indian émigré Shalini Anand; and her afternoon visits to the Seattle Aquarium. The year is drawing to a close, class involves making a paper-mache Divali Reindeer and Sheri has finally met a decent man, Steve, when Caitlin encounters an old man at the Aquarium, an old man who seems as fascinated by the fish as she is. And who seems very interested in her life.

Vann gives the reader a very diverse cast of characters: the effervescent Shalini; the admirably balanced Steve; the damaged and resentful Sheri; the earnestly repentant Bob. Of course, Caitlin, with her optimism, her love and her capacity for compassion, outshines them all. Their interactions are sometimes funny, sometimes decidedly uncomfortable, sometimes shockingly raw, but fans of Vann’s work will know not to expect a novel filled with sweetness and light. His work has been described as confronting. The plot takes a few unexpected turns before arriving at a startling climax.

While readers may find the lack of quotation marks for speech irritating, this is more than compensated for by the gorgeous descriptive passages, especially, but not only, those about fish. “You’re in trouble, Shalini whispered in my ear, leaning close. All the little hairs stood up on my neck and I had goose bumps. Shalini could make me shiver, as if my entire body were a bell that had just been struck” Another excellent offering from David Vann.
4.5 stars
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