A graphic memoir that proceeds like a young girl’s powerfully disturbing dream, which continues to resonate through her waking hours.
An award-winning novelist in Britain, Wyld (All the Birds, Singing, 2014, etc.) pares down her prose within a narrative that might not have the length of even a very short story but has the resonance of a tone poem. It also features the illustrations of Sumner, making his debut here, capturing both the comic-strip innocence of the perspective of the author as a young girl and the majesty and the terror of the sharks that are her obsession, a foreboding presence both underwater and beneath the surface of her consciousness. Within her subconscious, as in a dream, those sharks become manifest, take over the full spread of two pages, rendering words unnecessary. Written in the plainspoken diction of the small child who begins the narrative, Wyld describes formative impressions at the seashore of rural Australia, of seeing a shark, or at least conjuring the fin, memories that will lead to an obsession she will pursue in her reading and that will remain with her when she moves to England and has no sea nearby. The obsession is like a foreboding: “There is a constant creeping dread…something watching from the dark…something waiting to strike” [ellipses are the author’s]. She senses the possibility of sharks when she’s taking a bath, and she feels that dark undercurrent in the bloody scars of her bullied brother. She returns for a visit in Australia, she grows older, she flashes forward, and her sense of sharklike foreboding underscores her recognition of mortality: “The ebb and flow of life…and death,” she muses while reaching on the shelf for a book titled Shark Attack!
A rite-of-passage memoir that has powerful poetry in its ellipses.