Dark, Salt, Clear, by Lamorna Ash
Ash takes her title from an Elizabeth Bishop poem, and the literary—with references to Sebald, Didion, Barry Lopez, and others—is one angle she uses in her rich exploration of the Cornish fishing village of Newlyn. Others are history, natural history, interviews, folklore, and, most of all, reports of her own adventures at sea. Flouting superstitions about women on boats (not to mention braving severe sea sickness), Ash joins the crews of trawlers and day boats, not just observing the different techniques for hauling in pilchards and eels, for instance, but jumping into the frenzy of a fresh catch and learning to gut the fish herself. In calmer moments, Ash proves a lyrical and meditative writer. Her prose vividly conveys the ocean’s beauty and mystery as she probes both the economic and the deeper, more spiritual needs that drive people to sea and compel them to keep returning despite the heavy emotional and physical toll of this difficult life.