Posted 20 hours ago

The Whale Tattoo

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Joined in 2023

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I saw Jon Ransom at the Hay Festival and was so interested in his story and how he wrote The Whale Tattoo, on bus journeys to and from work, and to and from hospital. Jon Ransom stands beside Bryan Washington as one of the must-watch breakthrough talents of their generation.

Speech isn't clearly delineated, isn't often assigned to particular speakers, and can sometimes feel stylised. This affair comes with dangerous entanglements and deadly consequences for both of them as their private passion is threatened by the encroaching pressures and prejudices of the suffocating community that they can't seem to escape.

These lessons that come again and again, like wild weather busting in from the Wash, getting beneath your skin. The whole story read with no emotion, I imagined it being read in a monotone voice with no inflection at all.

Joe must decide if this whale will swallow him whole along with everyone that loves him or if he will fight his way out of the belly of this beast. It’s disturbing, honest and seeps into the psyche of the reader in the same way water pervades the narrative.

I did enjoy this chapter but struggled a bit to put it into the context of the story as a whole ,the characters were the same as the rest of the novel but since the scene was supposed to be set in 1988 they were the wrong age . There is a sense of detachment from the characters which does feel very English, however, and which steers clear of the melodrama we might associate from the American authors. Some of the stylistic choices, while understandable for their intent, make the text slightly difficult to follow in places, but otherwise the novel is well written, with an affecting insight into the lengths that love and loss drive people to and a refreshing frankness about sex. Queerness, poverty, mental health, class and redemption all jostle cheek by jowl against a filthy beautiful landscape of edges and erosion. Right from the start there is crudeness and a constant barrage of swearing from the first-person narrator – totally justified in my opinion, and I am someone who doesn’t swear.

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