The debut novel that became a huge French bestseller: a wild, gripping story of one woman’s battle with the elements on board an Alaskan fishing boat.
**SHORTLISTED FOR THE SCOTT MONCRIEFF PRIZE 2019**
**NOMINATED FOR THE MÉDICIS PRIZE 2018**
'A tale of travel and adventure, the story of a body utterly surrendered to pain and joy. It is mind-blowing, a delight.' Le Monde
Lili is a runaway. She’s left behind her native France to go in search of freedom, of adventure, of life. Her search takes her to Kodiak, Alaska, home to a ragtag community of fishermen, army vets and drifters who man the island’s fishing fleet. Despite her tiny frame, faltering English and lack of experience, Lili lands a job on board the Rebel, the only woman on the boat.
Out on the open sea, everything is heightened: colours are more vivid, sounds are louder and the work is harder than anything she's ever known. The terrifying intensity of the ocean is addictive to the point of danger. But Lili is not alone: in her fellow crewmembers she finds kindred spirits – men living on the edge, drawn to extremes.
Based on Catherine Poulain’s own experiences, and written in taut, muscular prose, Woman at Sea cuts through the noise of life and straight to the heart of our innermost longings.
“Supple and taut, brutal and delicate, Woman At Sea pulled me about with the tug and thrust of an ocean-storm. The roars gave way to calm spells, though, so intensely beautiful I thought them made by magic. With whip-crackingly smart dialogue, and prose as clean as a sea-breeze, this book is delightfully, heartstoppingly frank. I devoured it, and will be pressing it on everyone I know. ”
Elanor Dymott, author of EVERY CONTACT LEAVES A TRACE and SILVER AND SALT
“Vividly evoked… Poulain’s visceral account of what it’s like to live such a heightened existence is gripping.”
Herald Scotland, *Best Paperbacks of the Year*
“A vivid account of hard graft in treacherous conditions ... The salt-stung pages practically reek of the cod that the 30-something narrator, Lili, spends her days gutting, as she wins over a gruff crew doubtful she can earn her keep.”
Anthony Cummins, Daily Mail
“Poulain’s enthralling book… is utterly compelling. Like a tiny, vibrant dart hurled into an immensity of sea and sky, Lili commands attention throughout.”
Davina Langdale, Literary Review
“A debut novel of dazzling beauty.”
“A tale of travel and adventure, the story of a body utterly surrendered to pain and joy. It is mind-blowing, a delight.”
“A breath of fresh air ... the most unusual and enthralling account of the human condition.”
“An untamed successor to Conrad and Melville ... a stunning, roaring first novel.”
“An extraordinary and ultimately life-affirming novel, distilling what 58 years on this earth has taught Poulain about herself, and about others who share her desire to reach the edge of the world and peer over into what lies beyond.”
Alastair Mabbott, Herald Scotland, **Books of the Year**
“Spring sees a raft of female voices share stories of women in the wilderness. We love ... Woman at Sea by Catherine Poulain. ”