Slip of a Fish

Ash collects words, climbs trees and swims in a deserted lake with her beloved seven-year-old, Charlie. Bemused by everyday life, she has a rich and singular interior world. Over the course of a relentlessly hot summer, Charlie begins to pull away, and in a desperate attempt to reconnect with her daughter Ash does something unforgivable. As the gulf between them grows, Ash’s life begins to slip out of her grasp. Winner of the 2018 Northern Book Prize, Slip of a Fish is a joyously artful and quietly devastating portrait of motherhood, loss and love, in all its kaleidoscopic complexity.

About the author

Amy Arnold was born in Oxford in 1974. She studied Neuropsychology at Birmingham University and has worked in a variety of jobs from packing swedes to teaching and lecturing. She lives in Cumbria, and in 2018 was awarded the inaugural Northern Book Prize for her debut novel, Slip of a Fish.

The judges on the shortlist

Anna Leszkiewicz on Slip of a Fish

Slip of a Fish is a hazy, unsettling and uncompromising novel. It takes place inside the tumultuous, uneasy mind of Ash: a vulnerable young mother who is on uncertain footing when it comes to the mundane tasks and social interactions that come naturally to most. We are immersed in a claustrophobic, rhythmic stream-of-consciousness narrative that is at once perplexing and intensely compelling, as Ash ‘collects’ words that please her, anxiously analyses the jaunty colloquialisms of acquaintances, and struggles to keep a lid on recurring fragmented memories.

Over an unusually hot British summer, Ash finds herself becoming increasingly withdrawn as her mind becomes more frantic, fearing that her 7-year-old daughter, Charlie, is growing distant – until events take a disturbing turn that tests the limits of readers’ empathy. Dazzling and disorientating in equal measure, this is a daring, uncomfortable work that is impossible to fully leave behind.

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