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The Whale Tattoo

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It is a novel about Joe Gunner and his life and experiences as a working class child, adolescent and young man dealing with everything that growing up in a decaying fishing town in Norfolk. It’s somehow simultaneously sluggish and desperately paced, truly reflecting Joe (and several of those around him) — emotionally resigned to this life of struggling, but with a bitter hope of more pulsing through nonetheless. From one of the most acclaimed debut novelists of 2022 author of the Polari Prize short listed The Whale Tattoo.

In The Whale Tattoo, a giant sperm whale washes up on a Norfolk beach, and tells confused working class lad Joe Gunner that death will follow him wherever he goes. It’s Ransom’s raw reflection on life, his recognition of the brutality that transforms moments of passing rapture into something dreary, that leaves the reader entranced. The river is a character in itself that Joe must contend with as it torments him with dark thoughts confirming his worst fears. Though this is Joe’s story, of the father he loathes, the sister he loves, it is mainly about his life-long gay relationship with a fisherman, Fysh and him coming to terms with the suicide of his mother.Photograph: Sophie Davidson View image in fullscreen Opening up what we believe is possible … Julia Armfield, author of Our Wives Under the Sea.

This was an incredibly immersive and compelling read, that was at times dizzying, often heartbreaking, and with just enough hopefulness to keep my head above water. And, much like the elusive line between the bank of the river and land, time is a shifting entity within the parameters of the story. The roundabout is populated by typical garish painted horses with a single horse painted grey The author uses this as a metaphor for the main characters difference being an overtly camp homosexual man. Ransom’s short stories have appeared in SAND Journal, Foglifter Press and FIVE:2:ONE and most recently, Queer Life, Queer Love.I found the non-linear structure and language both to be particularly compelling, working together to settle me right into Joe’s headspace throughout. Ransom and Armfield were announced as the winners at a ceremony at the British Library on Friday evening. Much like the surface of the river that keeps mocking the protagonist, there’s an ominous tenor behind every word; a beauty that shocks. It’s the decaying flesh of the whale on the beach, the hot vomit strangling its victim, the black river resembling an oil stain as it lures its prey into the dark, along with the rage recognized only in the light of day, that animate the story’s underlying menace.

Ransom conjures up gorgeously evocative images for his hostile locations and finds love and energy there,” he added. Please include what you were doing when this page came up and the Cloudflare Ray ID found at the bottom of this page. He turns to his sister, Birdee, the only person who has ever listened, but their bond, as well as the one he has with local fisherman and long-time lover Tim Fysh, is not without trouble.There were clever turns and links I wasn't expecting, and a cast of characters I grew attached attached to. Other titles shortlisted alongside Ransom’s were None of the Above by Travis Alabanza, Rising of the Black Sheep by Livia Kojo Alour, The New Life by Tom Crewe, A Visible Man by Edward Enninful and Love from the Pink Palace by Jill Nalder. The first of the books I had highlighted as a must-read for 2024 was very nearly my first five star rating of the year.

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