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
About the Author
- What is the relationship between landscape and narrative in Desert Fish? What is the significance of the title?
- Discuss the relationship between Gilly and her parents in the novel. Does Gilly understand the relationship between her parents? Do you think they fail Gilly? Do you think Maureen has to make a choice between Gilly and Creighton?
- Is Gilly a reliable narrator? Are there any honest characters in Desert Fish? There is a broad discussion going on at the moment as to whether readers and viewers need to ‘like’ characters to enjoy or empathise with a piece of fiction. Where do you sit in this discussion?
- Gilly is fixated on the physical expression of her feelings for Pete? Why do you think this is so important to her? Does Gilly know what love is or do you think any means of escape would have satisfied her?
- What do you think Gilly means when she says she wants to disappear? Do you think Gilly is capable of causing real harm to her baby? Can she ever be a mother?
Cherise Saywell grew up in Casino and studied at the University of Queensland. She worked in television production and academic research in Australia and the UK. Cherise began writing fiction after settling in Scotland and has since won the Royal Society of Literature VS Pritchett Prize (2003) and received third prize at the Asham Awards (2009), the UK's top short story competition for women writers, and features in the collection published by Bloomsbury. Her stories have also been short-listed for the Raymond Carver Prize and have appeared in The London Magazine, New Writing Scotland and Carve Magazine. She has been awarded two Scottish Arts Council Bursaries (2003, 2007). DESERT FISH is her first novel and Cherise, with the benefit of a gold dust mentorship, is now working on her second, TWITCHER (a synopsis is below). She lives with her partner and two young children.