Janet van Eeden
2 minute read
2 Oct 2008

Three childhood friends reunite

Janet van Eeden

JANET VAN EEDEN reviews All is Fish by Kirsten Miller. Jacana.

This novel was written by a person who obviously loves the sea very much. According to the biography on the cover, Miller lives in Durban. Her love of KwaZulu-Natal, the warm Indian Ocean and the people of the KwaZulu-Natal infuses All is Fish, her first novel.

Simon is a successful businessman working in Johannesburg. When his marriage dissolves through his own self-absorption, he phones the friend of his childhood, Jonathan. It is 15 years since he has seen Jonathan or his twin sister Sarah. The three of them were inseparable when they were growing up, spending every free moment together, fishing or swimming or just sharing one another’s thoughts. Simon always looked up to the apparently self-assured Jonathan and was completely captivated by the wild child Sarah. In fact, it is his life-long infatuation with Sarah which probably caused him to remain remote in his now failed marriage.

So Simon decides to return to Mtunzini, where Jonathan lives in the house where he and Sarah grew up. Simon is welcomed back without question. But one can never go back to the way things were. There are changes. Jonathan is blind now, but this does not stop him swimming every day and continuing with his sculptures. And Sarah is in a mental home in Durban.

The reconnection of the three childhood friends has a dramatic impact on all their lives, especially when Jonathan brings Sarah back to stay with them in Mtunzini. The bond between the siblings, especially one as unstable as Sarah, is something which Simon underestimates. Finally though, Simon finds what he is looking for, although it doesn’t turn out exactly as he’d expected.

Miller has written a captivating novel, and she writes with sensitivity and perception about the bonds of love and commitment between two siblings if one of them is damaged in some way. She also explores the way a person cannot live in isolation, especially when that person is connected to someone who is mentally unstable.