How far will Gilly go to become someone new?
'Gilly. You know we'll die here, don't you?' Pete's eyes are glazed and red-rimmed.
'Aren't you afraid?'
'No, I'm not,' I tell him.
'I can't believe you,' he says. 'I don't believe you're not afraid.' He wants us to be joined now, at this moment. He doesn't want to die alone.
But I mean it. I'm not afraid.
Gilly lives in a drought-ridden small town in 1970s Australia. She's left school but hasn't found a job, it's always hot and life seems a little pointless.
Then Pete arrives. Golden-skinned with a kind smile and relaxed attitude, he boards with Gilly and her family and breaks the tension between her philandering father and anxious-to-please mother. Gilly can't help but fall in love with him and one sultry night, she gets what she wants.
A few weeks later, Pete disappears and Gilly finds out she's pregnant. She wants Pete so badly she'll do what it takes to find him and keep him, at any cost.
A dark love story, Desert Fish is a powerful and unflinching debut novel.
Reading Group Book Questions
“One of the joys of being a book reviewer is that occasionally you pick up a debut novel by an unfamiliar writer and realise that this is a major new voice. Pick of the week.” Kerryn Goldsworthy on Desert Fish, Spectrum, The Sydney Morning Herald
“Saywell’s writing is confident and compelling. Gilly is a complex psychological portrait of a girl forced into maturity …This book has echoes of Kenneth Cook’s Wake in Fright and the outback, no place for human habitation, is rendered with equal eeriness. The adolescent Gilly, searching for herself in the desert, is a memorable and poignant creation.”
Helen Elliot, The Age
“Crisply written with a lean poetic sensibility and a creepiness that draws you in, Desert Fish is an impressive debut.”
Alistair Jones, The Australian
“A dark love story, Desert Fish is a powerful and unflinching debut novel.”
“Saywell’s simple language is loaded with meaning and, at times, poetically entrancing.”
The Herald Sun
“DESERT FISH grabs you in the first pages, and doesn’t let go. I read this in one sitting, and it stays with you long after you finish. The writing is spare and evocative, and I could almost smell the heat. Cherise Saywell’s characterisation is unflinching and this is small town disappointments and suffocation writ large. “
“I loved DESERT FISH. I was lucky enough read this when it first came into the House and was immediately enveloped in Cherise’s writing. Gilly and Pete were so real to me that I had to rush home from a concert to continue reading and see how they fared. This is a clear evocation of place and time and captures life in an Australian country town beautifully. At its heart though, DESERT FISH is a story of love, what it is, what we imagine it to be and what it fails to be. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did.”
On WAVING AT THE GARDEN: The Asham Short Story Collection
“But the stand-out story, “The Candle Garden” by Cherise Saywell has the wrench of real pathos and out-Atwoods Atwood in its dystopian vision of a world where parks have disappeared, gardens are guarded and even cemeteries issue tickets for a one-hour visit.”
Jane Housham, Guardian
Number Of Pages: 336
Published: 1st March 2011
Publisher: Random House Australia
Dimensions (cm): 23.4 x 15.3 x 2.5
Weight (kg): 0.38