Book Reviews

Fish Town by John Gerard Fagan

What Da Cover Says: “For years my life had been a string of temporary work in factories and call centres or unemployed. Approaching 30 and disillusioned with life in Glasgow, I sold everything I had and left for a new life in a remote fishing village in Japan. I knew nothing of the language or the strange new land that I would call home for the next seven years. Fish Town is an eye-opening true story that paints the reality of living in Japan as an outsider.”

John’s debut memoir, written entirely on his phone, reads like a book of poetry or perhaps a long text message. This gifted writer captures the experience of a Scottish man living in Japan – with humour, wit, honesty, and by all means without an ounce of political correctness.

What I Says: I have enjoyed this unique memoir, the prose lives somewhere between poetry and random thoughts/memories that have been written down on scraps of paper. The whole book was actually written on a phone….imagine to size of his thumb muscles after this impressive feat. John Gerard Fagan (JGF) had got all the qualifications you are told you need to succeed in life and finds himself at a crossroads in his life, unable to get a job, factory work and call centres seem to be the only options he decides to go for the extreme option by moving to Japan to teach English….without knowing any Japanese.

JGF shares the culture shock he goes through, the mistakes he makes, the creepy perverts he notices, the utter $@!^”‘s he meets that try to get him in trouble at the schools and the wide range of alcohol he consumes. He meets a lot of fellow travellers trying to do the same thing as him, some hang in there and some are unable to cut it and head off home. This has to be one of the loneliest memoirs I’ve read, he is at his lowest when trapped in a town with nobody to talk to and the poems are full of that angst, but just when it starts to get you down JGF meets a friend and life is good, his humour kicks back in and even his accent starts to appear again.

I liked the balance of life in Japan that JGF shows us in this collection, so many books I’ve read only seem to share the polite and generous side of the people, JGF see’s the darker side of life, suicide, drunkenness, perverts, racism and the stressful lives of the salarymen, it was a bit of an eye opener for me. One of the most interesting subjects covered was home-sickness, I liked how it seamlessly moves from pining for Scotland to missing Japan once JGF decides to return home, you almost don’t realise that transition has happened.

Highlight of the collection was right near the end of the book “everyone else hasn’t a chance” a wonderful uplifting poem to finish off the book. Brilliant.

Thanks to Guts Publishing for sending me out this copy, I’m now a big fan of JGF. Anybody wanting to give this one a go can get a copy from HERE:

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