This book in paperback is all over the shops down in Penzance but I found a copy in Oxfam Books on my High Street. I’ve heard varied things of it from locals and wasn’t sure about it entirely, but it was a good, appropriate holiday read. One left in the pile, Tony Wilson’s “24 Hour Party People”, I did try with, but it was written in such a peculiar style that I couldn’t get on with it and had to leave it in Cornwall for another holidaymaker to enjoy.

Gavin Knight – “The Swordfish and the Star: Life on Cornwall’s Most Treacherous Stretch of Coast”

(Oxfam Books, 09 July 2019)

A helter-skelter dash, read quickly so as not to bring it back in my packing, through the lives and history of the fishermen of West Penwith, concentrating on St Ives, Mousehole, Newlyn, Penzance and St Just. Told through the men’s (and some women’s) voices in direct reported speech gives it an odd feel – although it’s ‘told’ by different people, it does seem to come out quite samey in places, but then it’s a homogeneous place – and it jumps around between people and places. I will admit to skimming a few places but I got the strong impression of a place that takes the law into its own hands, and the horrendous risks of the life of a fisherman, then and now, just the same.

It was nice to see the Hub in St Ives mentioned as I had a cuppa in there last Tuesday, as well as a few pubs I’ve seen but not been in. There was a good bit, although a little disjointed, about Barbara Hepworth and other artists. A longish and moving description of the Penlee Lifeboat Disaster of 1981, which I remember, completed the familiar parts of the book, although I was also pleased to see mention of the female vicar of Newlyn, after reading about one in the Cornish Cafe series. Incomers are mentioned, occasionally positively, and what is said is fair enough (we try not to be those people, though we probably are: I wouldn’t by a second home then leave it empty most of the year or sail when I don’t know what I’m doing then not thank the lifeboat crew, however!)

This book would be fascinating to read if you’re a local – there were names in there familiar from my local friends’ talk – and gives a good insider view of the world of danger and brutality that this community inhabits.