A Girl Called Eel

READ THE WORLD – Comoros: A Girl Called Eel by Ali Zamir

Translated by Aneesa Abbas Higgins.

Teenage girl Eel lives on the Comorian island of Anjouan with her twin sister Rattler and their father All-Knowing. Eel is curious about the world beyond what her overbearing father dictates. When she meets handsome fisherman, Voracious, who offers her the possibility of a life of liberation and love she cannot foresee what it will cost her or the fateful path it will lead her down.

A Girl Called Eel is a 271-page story that’s told in just one sentence. I wasn’t sure what to make of that to begin with, but it worked well, make it an impactful read and one that was easy to follow. There is still a lot of commas in this one sentence, along with line breaks, so it isn’t just pages and pages of block text. Having the story be told by Eel in one, almost desperate, sentence adds to the feel that it is a long string of conscious thought. Especially as ever now and then she interrupts herself, saying how she’s getting ahead of herself or mentioning what’s happening to her in the present as she recounts her past.

Eel basically tells her life story up to that moment, her and her sisters’ birth, how they got such unusual names, how she met and instantly fell in love with Voracious, and how her life unravelled, though if she hadn’t have been so naïve, she could’ve seen the warning signs miles away. Because that’s the thing about Eel, because she’s so inquisitive and studious and quiet, she believes she’s smarter and more capable than she is. She looks down on her fellow students, believing them to be trying too hard just because they open their textbooks, and she thinks her sister is wasting her life, hanging out with friends all the time, but when Rattler does try to focus more on herself and her future, Eel just scoffs and feels no one can change who they are.

Eel is a fascinating character to me. She’s headstrong and determined and curious, loves Voracious with her whole heart but she’s also incredibly self-centred and unfeeling towards a lot of other people. As she tells her life story, she doesn’t shy away from the cruel thoughts she thought in the moment, or the ones she now thinks with hindsight. She thinks she’s smarter and more aware of the world than she is, which then makes her more naïve and childish. All this doesn’t make her a particularly likeable character, but it does make her interesting.

The format of A Girl Called Eel, along with a compelling, if not likeable narrator, makes an almost typical story of a girl getting taken for a fool by an older man more interesting and engaging.

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books I Hope to Find Under My Tree

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl. This week it’s all about the books we’d love to receive for Christmas. I signed up for the TBTB Secret Santa again this year and as of writing and scheduling this post, I haven’t opened my parcel so some of these books may now be in my possession which is very exciting. Nowadays my bookish wishlist is always a combination of books from international authors for my Read the World Project and anything else that grabs my fancy.

Beyond the Rice Fields by Naivo
This is the first novel from Madagascar ever to be translated into English and is about the brutal history of 19th-century Madagascar.

The Conspiracy by Israel Centeno
A thriller about a would-be revolutionary sniper who misses his shot on the President of Venezuela and must hide from the authorities and former friends who are out for revenge.

The End of the Dark Era by Tsveendorjin Oidov
This is a book of Mongolian poetry and that’s all I know about it!

A Girl Called Eel by Ali Zamir
This book is apparently a story told in a single sentence, which may be a bit difficult for me to read because paragraph breaks are my friend, but it’s from an author from the Comoros Islands so I’m intrigued.

Secrets We Kept: Three Women of Trinidad by Krystal A. Sital
A memoir about a grandmother, mother and daughter who learn long-buried secrets about the family’s past.

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
I feel this book needs no introduction as it’s been everywhere! It’s an epic fantasy inspired by Chinese history and I do love to get immersed in a fantasy epic every now and then.

Girls on the Verge by Sharon Biggs Waller
I love contemporary YA about girls helping one another out as they tackle some big real-world problems. This one is about teen pregnancy and how difficult it is getting an abortion and having to deal with the emotions surrounding it.

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
This is an alternate-history where extinction-level global warning gets kickstarted by a meteor strike in 1952 and women become involved with the mission to colonise the Moon and then Mars.

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse
A story about a monster hunter in an apocalyptic world where gods and monsters of Native American folklore roam the Earth.

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston
This YA romance seems to have been everywhere this year and I’ve heard nothing but fantastic things and while I rarely read romance, this seems so sweet and funny that I want to give it a go.

What books are you hoping are going to come into your life soon?