Mini review: The Fisherman / John Langan

Highly underrated and overlooked, The Fisherman is one of those chance treasures I am grateful to have forcibly thrust upon me by fellow reader friends. Having not read horror for some time – because it often feels like a guilty pleasure, I was intrigued to find this was a kind of literary horror that straddles the boundaries of more than one genre.

The Fisherman relates the masculine expression of grief in two widowed men – the older protagonist Abe and his younger co-worker Dan, as they are drawn into the hypnotic repetition and camaraderie of fishing. Langan poignantly captures the obsessive lure of grief, the constant picking apart of the thread of loss that tangles you up in it. The men are baited – and warned away from – a new fishing location, with an extensive story-within-a-story: the testimony of an old woman who lived in the flooded reservoir as a girl, and who saw firsthand the tragic unravelling of several families at the hands of Der Fischer. A better reviewer than I described the device as a “Russian nesting doll-like narrative structure… reminiscent at times of Frankenstein” (Barry Lee Dejasu). Lottie’s story, as in a fairytale or classic myth, is a cautionary tale Dan and Abe can heed – and thus avoid the destruction of their souls and sanity. Yet, according to gothic tradition, it is the inevitable pull of fate that is most horrific, pulling the men into the clutches of a dark and terrible sequence of events.

The Fisherman has gone straight to my list of favourite horror reads.

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