New Release Book Review: The Octopus and I by Erin Hortle

IMG_20200616_120841I’ve had a lot of trouble reading recently due to some stressful things going on, but on Monday it was all over, and although there are other stresses now to deal with, the big one which has been taking all my energy and brainpower is now finished and I was hopeful I might be able to pick up a book and also catch up on some reviews. I have been going for light romances to try and keep my mind off of everything, but on Tuesday I thought I’d try something different. Thanks to Allen & Unwin, I had a copy of The Octopus and I waiting to be read and I think its serious nature and beautiful language and metaphors, was just what I needed.

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 written and the octopuses and the other sea life that play a part in telling the story were at times touching and beautiful and at other times quite violent and disturbing. There was one chapter about a seal that I found particularly hard to read.

I have a friend who had her breasts removed due to breast cancer and went down the same road is Lucy in choosing to cover the scars and skin with tattoos, I could imagine how Lucy felt as the tattoo emerged and she dealt with the changes that were going on both on the outside and on the inside as she allowed herself to heal.

There is a small cast of characters, Flo, Harry and Jeb, who play important roles in Lucy’s life after her breast cancer and then after an accident she has whilst trying to save a pregnant octopus. Flo, an older lady who she connects with initially over catching octopuses, becomes such an important support system for Lucy and she learns many lessons through the interactions she has with her. Life can be confusing and people can be enigmas and difficult to understand. Lucy’s relationship with Jeb is like this and as Lucy struggles to understand herself, her relationship with Jeb suffers and she has to take a good look at the both of them. Harry, Flo’s son is a quiet character who really ‘gets’ Lucy, he really sees who she is and seems to understand the journey she is on. I really liked Harry and the part he played in Lucy’s journey of self discovery.

A heartfelt and emotional read, it was exactly what I was looking for.

 

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