Before arriving in Newlyn, a Cornish fishing village at the end of the railway line, Lamorna Ash was told that no fisherman would want a girl joining an expedition. Weeks later, the only female on board a trawler called the Filadelfia, she is heading out to sea with the dome of the sky above and the black waves below.
Dark, Salt, Clear , melds history, literature and the highly personal into something far more complex and compelling than the 'evocative journey replete with poetry' of the publisher’s blurb. W. G. Sebald’s Rings of Saturn becomes Ash’s lodestar ... Her direct accounts are wadded between allusions to Joseph Conrad, Virginia Woolf, Herman Melville and others, and a mass of detailed local history, mined deeply and purposefully ... Ash’s search for a sense of authenticity and belonging is part of the story-within-a-story that remains unresolved. When the regulars at the pub shout a chorus of welcome, a recalcitrant deckhand gifts her a cloudy lump of amber and the couple with whom she has been lodging hug her goodbye, it feels like another Eden from which, shackled to a different life, she is bound to turn wistfully away.
Dark, Salt, Clear is an extraordinary debut, a deeply researched and deeply felt work of narrative nonfiction. It is the kind of book that ziplines readers to a different world ... Ms. Ash explores questions about work, life and community and in so doing reflects on her own choices. On top of everything else, this book charts the author’s own passage to maturity as she re-evaluates what matters to her ... Dark, Salt, Clear is a deep dive into a distinctive culture rather than a tale of confronting adversity with a literal walk on the wild side.
Part coming-of-age memoir, part anthropological study, Dark, Salt, Clear glistens with deftly told snippets and character-rich stories: about the habits of fish and the art of catching them; about the bifurcating life of sea and shore; about 'salt-licked winds' and squawking seabirds; and, perhaps most poignantly, about Lamorna Ash herself, the 'emmet' or outsider, who so desperately desires to belong ... When she turns to issues such as quota revisions or Brexit (which has near-universal support in fishing communities), Ash does so not in facts and figures but via the lived realities of the fishermen ... With graceful lyricism and endearing humility, Ash gives this rage both voice and face.