POVone: The First Person Perspective

Rants and Reviews on Novels Written in the First Person Point of View

Book Review: Aquarium by David Vann

Author: David Vann
Title: Aquarium
Genre: Literary
Publication Date: March 3, 2015
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press (Grove/Atlantic)
Number of Pages: 272
Narrator: Caitlin Thompson
Amazon.com Reviewer Grade: C, Average; of the first 62 reviews, the average reader rating was 74.52%.

Aquarium by David Vann

What’s It About?

Caitlin is a twelve year old girl growing up in Seattle during the mid-1990s. Her mother–the only parent she has–frequently works late in order for them to eke out an existence together in a low rent apartment complex. Having nowhere else to go, Caitlin leaves school everyday and spends her afternoons at the local Aquarium watching the fish. One day, she meets an old man who also frequents the aquarium to watch the fish. Little by little, they begin to develop a friendship.

Caitlin’s mom has cut herself off from her family, and she never talks about her past. When she finds out that Caitlin has been talking to an old man, she jumps to the conclusion that the old man is a pervert and seeks to confront him. What she discovers, however, is that her past has come back to haunt her and the old man is no stranger–at least not in the way she thinks.

As Caitlin’s mother attempts to avoid dealing with her past, she reveals a hidden rage and becomes increasingly abusive with those around her–including her new boyfriend, her daughter’s friend from school, and even her own daughter. Caitlin must struggle with loving her mother in spite of the rage she exhibits, all the while seeking love herself from the others who are coming into her life as she grows older.

Should You Read It?

If you like stories about self-discovery, inner struggles, and broken family relationships, you’ll probably enjoy this book. The writing is rhythmic and poetic, while capturing the perspective of a child trying to understand the world of adults. Themes involve sexual exploration, coming of age, child abuse, forgiveness, and regret. If you’re into literary fiction that grapples with these issues, I’d look into this book. If you’re sensitive to the ideas of child abuse, child sexuality, or homosexuality, I would exercise caution–while not necessarily graphic, the scenes involving these issues can become fairly intense.

Links and References

Author Information: Website, Wikipedia, Goodreads

Book Reviews: New York Times, The Guardian, Washington Post, Kirkus Reviews, Chicago Tribune

Purchase: Buy It On Amazon.com

Other Books By David Mann: Goat Mountain (2013), Dirt (2012), Caribou Island (2011)


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