book review: The Pisces by Melissa Broder

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THE PISCES by Melissa Broder
★★★★★
Hogarth Press, May 1, 2018

I want to make this clear for those of you who get recommendations off me: The Pisces is not my usual kind of book. Anything shelved as both fantasy and romance would ordinarily get an automatic pass from me. But this wonderful review from Hannah piqued my curiosity, so against my better judgment I decided to request it and leave it up to the Netgalley gods to see whether or not I’d read it. I was approved approximately 2 minutes later, so that was that.

Thankfully, The Pisces was pretty incredible, and it just reaffirmed my tendency to occasionally read outside my comfort zone. It’s a sort of literary soft erotica story about a woman who falls in love with a merman, but I feel like that description sells it short. Broder’s writing is smart and sharp, and her story goes a lot deeper than your average mermaid erotica (or maybe the mermaid erotica genre has hidden depths and I’m just over here showing off my ignorance for underestimating it).

Anyway, a lot of that is down to our protagonist, Lucy. Lucy is 38 years old, has been working on her PhD thesis on Sappho for years and has since become disillusioned with it, and her love life is a disaster. She’s also kind of awful. She’s not a particularly nice person, and it’s hard to root for her – but I still want to, through everything. This is Lucy’s journey to accept herself and reconcile her obsession with love with her fear of intimacy, and what could be more human than that? Also, because of Lucy’s studies on Sappho, her narration is fused with allusions to Greek mythology and the classics, so I guess this book wasn’t 100% outside of my wheelhouse.

And then there’s the fantastical element. This was what I was worried about going in, but I ended up loving it. I feel like it’s treated by the narrative with a certain amount of self-awareness toward its inherent absurdity, which makes it all the more endearing.

This is not going to be for everyone. Don’t read this if you can’t stomach graphic sex scenes, or if you don’t enjoy reading about unlikable characters, or if you’re looking for something with the same sort of whimsical fairytale feel as The Shape of WaterThe Pisces is both grittier and funnier, sexier and somehow less romantic. It’s both a fun read and an unexpectedly hard-hitting one, and with its absolutely stunning conclusion, I’ll probably be thinking about it for days to come.

Thank you to Netgalley, Hogarth Press, and Melissa Broder for the advanced copy provided in exchange for an honest review.

31 thoughts on “book review: The Pisces by Melissa Broder

  1. Wow, I’ve been seeing this book everywhere, but I had no idea THAT’S what it was about. Huh. I am really intrigued by it. I read both Fantasy and Romance, but this particular mermaid erotica genre might be weird for me too. But I enjoyed The Shape of Water and I’m super intrigued by it. Fantastic review!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The premise is weird as hell, but the book was somehow LESS weird than I’d been expecting?? It feels very grounded in realism, but there’s also randomly a merman, but there’s also a sort of larger than life allegorical feel to the whole thing which allows the realism and the merman to coexist. If you’re intrigued you should give it a shot!! I can’t get over what a pleasant surprise this was.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I got this from Netgalley after seeing Hannah’s review too! I was going to start reading it the other day, but then I read the first two pages and I was like……….. nah. This needs to wait a bit. This was right after I had read Social Creature so I needed a break from weird adult lit for a sec. I definitely intend to read it this month or next though!

    And the cover is AMAZING. I don’t usually like models on covers but it works so well here, and the color composition is superb and so striking.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lolol @ ‘weird adult lit’ that is… a very good description of everything I’ve been reading recently. I honestly have NO IDEA what you’re going to think of this, and I am very curious to find out.

      I feel the exact same way about the cover!!! The color composition is STRIKING.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I was honestly very surprised I ended up loving it so much. I thought for sure it was going to be one of those ‘I grudgingly see the merit in this but I don’t Like It’ situations. It was just so well-written and thought-provoking. I feel bad about its 3.4 GR rating, inevitably from people who hated Lucy or were mad it wasn’t exactly like The Shape of Water.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This sounds really interesting. It’s definitely not something I would usually be interested in but your review has sold me haha. I usually don’t read fantasy either but if you liked it then maybe I would too!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s definitely worth a shot! It’s more like realistic fiction with one single fantastical element, rather than full-blown fantasy… and to be fair that kind of thing usually doesn’t work for me either, but something about this book just clicked. If you give it a try I hope you like it!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’M INTRIGUED, but the merman erotica part makes me kind of wary…I’m really not one for graphic sex scenes. But I’m still tempted because you make it sound so interesting and different.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Omg I’m literally so mad that there are graphic sex scenes because if there weren’t I would recommend it to you in an instant dsjklfdjsl Like there are so many elements I think you’d enjoy…. BUT THERE IS SO MUCH SEX. So. It’s a toss up. I guess I’d say… don’t hurry to read it but if you’re in the mood for something weird and the thought of reading about merman sex isn’t excruciating in that moment then go for it??

      Liked by 1 person

      • AHHH omg if it was just a bit of it I wouldn’t mind, but when there’s a lot I tend to shy away. And the fact that it’s with a merman kind of weirds me out but since it defied your expectations I have a feeling it might be different than what I expect as well. MAYBE ONE DAY!!

        Liked by 1 person

      • tbh the merman sex is like………….. very ordinary sex and he happens to be a merman?? It’s not like. Profoundly weird in that regard. But IT’S A WEIRD BOOK OVERALL IN A VERY GOOD WAY.

        Liked by 1 person

      • LOL okay that’s good at least, though I don’t know exactly what merman sex would consist of otherwise……….and I do not want to know. I’m intrigued so I’m keeping this on my backburner tbr.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Although I haven’t read it personally, I’m hearing only good things about this book & your review is another stamo of approval. 😊 I’m fascinated with Broder’s So Sad Today account on Twitter & cannot wait to see how she wrote an entire book. She’s something, you know? 🙂

    Great review. 😀

    Like

  6. […] 6. The Pisces by Melissa Broder.  On the surface, this isn’t the kind of book I like.  If you look at how this is commonly shelved on Goodreads you see Romance, Fantasy, and Magical Realism – that should be strike one two and three right there.  But I gave it a try and my god was I glad that I did.  This book was everything I didn’t even know I needed.  Lucy is one of the most unnervingly realistic protagonists I have ever read about, and the thematic depths to which this mermaid erotica novel dove were… unexpected, to say the least.  And it has one of the most unforgettable endings I have EVER read.  This managed to be both hilarious and haunting.  Full review here. […]

    Like

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