EDWARD STANFORD SHORTLIST: Shark Drunk by Morten Strøksnes

Review published on January 25, 2018.

At the Northwest of Norway, far above the North Sea, lie the Lofoten islands. The waters here are incredibly deep and lurking at the bottom of them is a relic from the past, the Greenland shark. This is one species of sleeper shark, which have been known to live up to 400 years. As they live at depth, their flesh is toxic from the saturation of trimethylamine N-oxide, giving those that eat it a hallucinogenic trance; however, this does not stop the Icelandic people eating it…

There has been a long history of the residents of these islands doing all they can to catch one of these one-tonne creatures. It is a task made much harder because of the depth they swim at, they roll the moment they sense they have been caught and their sandpaper-like skin snaps fishing line so a chain has to be used at the end of the line. But first, you have to find one. Morten Strøksnes and his friend Hugo think that they can catch one too. They have the rods, lines and chain, the innards of a bull that stink to high heaven and an awful lot of optimism, and a very small rubber boat. Should all be fine, shouldn’t it?

This is an account of a mad quest to catch one of the great sharks of the deep ocean; however, this book is more than that. Hunting one of these creatures involves Morten and Hugo sitting in a tiny boat for hours on end, and that gives them time to think, to talk and contemplate the wider questions on life the universe and everything. Hence, the book covers an array of fascinating subjects such as mythology and science. As it is an island, the weather changes constantly as the warmth from the from the Gulf Stream meets the cold air from the Arctic and the way that Strøksnes’ prose describes this and the stark beauty of the land and seascapes around the Lofoten islands is quite special.

Paul Cheney 4/-

Shark Drunk by Morten Strøksnes
Jonathan Cape 9781910702994 hbk Jul 2017

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