Going fishing means many different things to different people. For Swedish journalist Patrik Svensson, it plays a significant role in his relationship with his father (an enthusiastic eel fisher) and encourages him to investigate the almost mythical target of their fishing expeditions - the European eel, Anguilla anguilla.
The result is an intriguing and thought-provoking memoir that draws together strands of history and philosophy with the elusive and mysterious eel at its heart.
We all enjoyed this book and spent more time discussing it than most other books we have had over the years!
Our all-male group had a range of views about this book, scoring from 1 to 4 stars, with most around 3. Positives were the wealth of information about this mysterious fish, the ease of reading, the short length, and the social insights from his father's story. Negatives were the lack of a global perspective on eels, the rather tenuous links to some of the people in history (e.g. Freud), the lack of a strong storyline in the relationship between father and son, and for some the lack of a clear purpose of the book.
A couple of members didn't read this, but all those that did were pleasantly surprised. Everything the reviews promised.... interestingly structured with the balance between natural history and memoir working beautifully.
"The Gospel of the Eels' on the whole was an interesting book. We felt the first third of the book was very interesting with regard to the research that had been carried out over many years. After this there was a loss of engagement overall. While everyone finished the book and did get something from it on different levels, overall we felt it scored a 3.
We all enjoyed this book and learning more about the enigmatic eel. We liked the combination of science and family story. Some of us felt he stretched the eel connection a little too far at times and also that he repeated himself in the science sections. Overall these are small things that didn't detract from our enjoyment.
A mixed reaction to this book. Some of us were fascinated by these elusive creatures' life cycle, and others read a little of the book and decided "not for me".
Fascinating. We learned so much we didn't know. Many people found the book difficult to start with but all persevered and most got a lot from it. Very very comprehensive and wide ranging. Comments included, "I felt like it was a full meal - a good meal...I learned so much", "It's a thinking book".
Most of the group found the book an interesting read considering the subject. The underlying family message was very engrossing.
Comments included "I learnt a lot about eels!". "Enjoyed reading about father/son relationships, but the history was the most fascinating". "A fascinating account...to learn about the Sargasso Sea, arrival of the Mayflower and eel gift, Rachel Carson, the eel trip upsetting the balance of power". " I didn't know how much there is yet to learn about eels". We had an interesting discussion about NZ eels.