A captivating, lyrical and deeply discerning portrait of life in the Cornish town of Newlyn, the largest working fishing port in Britain, from a brilliant debut writer
There is the Cornwall Lamorna Ash knew as a child – the idyllic, folklore-rich place where she spent her summer holidays. Then there is the Cornwall she discovers when, feeling increasingly dislocated in London, she moves to Newlyn, a fishing town near Land's End. This Cornwall is messier and harder; it doesn't seem like a place that would welcome strangers.
Before long, however, Lamorna finds herself on a week-long trawler trip with a crew of local fishermen, afforded a rare glimpse into their world, their warmth and their humour. Out on the water, miles from the coast, she learns how fishing requires you to confront who you are and what it is that tethers you to the land. But she also realises that this proud and compassionate community, sustained and defined by the sea for centuries, is under threat, living in the lengthening shadow cast by globalisation.
An evocative journey of personal discovery replete with the poetry and deep history of our fishing communities, Dark, Salt, Clear confirms Lamorna Ash as a strikingly original new voice.
– A BBC Radio 4 book of the week
– Shortlisted for the Wainwright Prize
– A Sunday Times and Financial Times book of the year
"Ash gets to the salty heart of why [commercial fishing] still matters, not just to the communities in Cornwall it sustains, but for the richness and cultural heritage it represents [...] Beyond the beauty of her prose, Ash's great strength lies in her ability to capture a sense of place"
– Books of the Year, Sunday Times
"A bracing account of discovery [...] Part coming-of-age memoir, part anthropological study, Dark, Salt, Clear glistens with deftly told snippets and character-rich stories [...] Cornwall's harbourside cottages and ragged cliffs may look picturesque, but they hide an unsettling "anger and insularity", she argues. With graceful lyricism and endearing humility, Ash gives this rage both voice and face"
– Oliver Balch, Financial Times
"Terrific [...] A hugely moving but unsentimental account of not only today's fishermen but also a salty, grafting, real-life England too rarely depicted in literature [...] It is well-timed, feels rather important, and has excellent tips on the filleting of fish. What more could you want?"
– Richard Benson, Mail on Sunday
"Lamorna Ash conjures a remarkable sense of place, her book deftly woven with a profound empathy for the people she encounters, as well as great literature, past and present. I loved this book"
– Sophy Roberts, author of The Lost Pianos of Siberia
"One of Spring's most hotly anticipated titles"
– Rachel Cooke, Observer
"A beautiful account of immersion in an alien world – the tightly bound fishing community of Newlyn [...] Spending weeks with fishermen on small fishing boats, and amid their equally turbulent shore life, Ash offers a sharp and poignant portrait of men living an intense and peripheral existence"
– Philip Marsden, Guardian
"[An] outstanding travel writing debut [...] If you love Cornwall for its beaches and photogenic fishing villages, you should read this captivating, true-to-life portrait of a place that, while angry and insular at times, is also fiercely proud and community-minded [...] Newlyn is a place with much to teach us in these times"
– Caroline Sanderson, Daily Express
"Beautifully written [...] [Ash is] an empathetic writer who sees poetry in the everyday [...] If you read this thoughtful and observant chronicle, you'll never look at Cornwall in the same way again"
– Daily Mail
"I love this town and I love this book – both are imbued with the unadorned lessons of hard earned lives"
– Mark Kurlansky
"Lamorna Ash is a beautiful prose stylist – precise, perceptive, humane and sensitive – who somehow manages to write in a way that is both earthy and poetic. Her debut book – full of fish and blood and salt and oilskins – marks the birth of a new star of non-fiction"
– William Dalrymple
"With the heart of a novelist and the clarity of an ethnographer, Lamorna Ash reveals the Cornish fishing community of Newlyn in all its tension and hardship and wild joy. Dark, Salt, Clear is a book of deep immersion and a stunning debut"
– Philip Marsden
"Lamorna Ash evokes the vigour and complexity of the country's westernmost fishing port with a love only a granite heart could resist. As Cornwall's fishing and farming communities hold their breath to see whether leaving the EU will save or savage them, Dark, Salt, Clear arrives at the perfect time and should be cherished by natives, incomers and emmets alike"
– Patrick Gale
"Lamorna writes with a maturity and wisdom that betrays her years and which took me to the very heart of Newlyn while questioning my sense of belonging [...] Dark Salt, Clear is a captivating homage to Newlyn and its people"
– Lara Maiklem
"Lamorna Ash's beautiful debut is a seductive, vivid reading experience. A portrait of the life and unique character of a community, it is also an exploration of the spaces around a person, that make up the person – a young woman's search for her own identity and her self. You'll love her characters, because they've been written with love, and that makes them live on the page"
– Barney Norris
"Lamorna Ash's captivating debut charts her trawler trip with Cornish fishermen, and the lessons she learned about a dying tradition and what it takes to live at sea"
"[Ash] tells the riveting tale of eight days spent at sea on a trawler with a crew of fishermen. Battling homesickness and seasickness, she sets herself to this toughest and most perilous of trades, learning to haul, gut and pack fish. It's a portrait of a place that, while sometimes insular, is also community-minded"
– Caroline Sanderson, Daily Mirror
"All should make room in their luggage for this book, an illuminating depiction of the realities of life in the Cornish fishing port of Newlyn"
– Summer Reading Picks, Financial Times
"[A] wonderful debut [...] The guts of the book is an unsentimental account of life on a trawler that feels particularly timely with fishing rights rarely out of the news"
– Books of the Year, Mail on Sunday
"Revealing the tension, grit and camaraderie of a community defined by the sea, she learns to gut fish and weather storms, confronting the looming shadow of globalisation with a raw, poetic sensitivity"