Dark, Salt, Clear: The Life of a Fishing Town

Bloomsbury. Dec. 2020. 336p. ISBN 9781635576153. $27. NAT HIST
In the prolog to this book from debut author Ash, John Steinbeck is held up as an example of a writer who recognizes the “near impossibility of transforming landscapes and people into writing, but who try anyway.” Ash largely succeeds as she explores the Cornish fishing village of Newlyn, Britain, and its habitants. In poetic descriptions and authentic dialog that is both deep and humorous, readers are placed squarely in the environment. The nonlinear tale mainly recounts the author’s eight-day journey aboard a trawler with side lessons in local history, geology, geography, politics, conservation, mental health issues, and more. During her time in Newlyn, Ash recalls various authors and their musings as she makes sense of this world, which draws new dimensions for readers as well. Some people might be discouraged by skipping around the timeline, as it’s easy to lose track of who is who—Yet, this natural history memoir still manages to offer candid insight into a historical coastal region.
VERDICT An unromantic yet beautiful look at life. Readers who appreciate travel stories full of local flavor, as well as those who have ever wondered how a seafood feast ends up on their plate, will enjoy this one.

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