If you’re a kiwi and you go to the beach, here’s a tip: read this story and learn about spear fishing. I had no idea it was a thing. I thought fishing at sea involved sitting passively for hours on a boat until a tug on the line left you dealing with whatever Neptune sent you. But a “spearo” goes beneath the surface, free diving, and gets to know the fish in their own environment. This is not someone sitting comfortably on a boat having a random tug of war with some poor fish they may not even want. A spearo goes out to get dinner.
I went to Mary-anne Scott’s place last night (I’m so famous by association I can’t help mentioning that). One of the guys had speared a tuna. She seared a fillet fast in the pan and we sat around the kitchen bench talking while we picked off pieces with our fingers to dip in a sticky sauce and eat on a cracker. The fish had been chosen, speared by a man who had held his breath to go down in to the fish’s world to get him. There’s something primal about that. Damn good fish, too.
And a damn good book. It’s about a boy in his mid-teens, but there’s nothing to stop keen younger kids reading this story, and would be a good one to read aloud. Scott is relaxed in this genre, the pace and vocab are pitch-perfect.
The story has other themes as well as spear fishing: being an outsider, the new kid, changes in family situations, struggling to talk about issues. Stupid things said that can never be taken back and eventually need to be dealt with. These are things that resonate with everyone, not just homesick boys, and the story has a tension that feels natural and unforced. All good stuff, though it’s the many small but fascinating details about the spearos that kept the pages flying for me. It’s a world that Scott observes well and she pulls you in, takes you along for the ride. The spearo on the book’s cover is her son and the fish is a kingfish.