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Sea Monsters

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Pulsing to the soundtrack of Joy Division, Nick Cave, and Siouxsie and the Banshees, Sea Monsters offers an intoxicating portrait of Mexico in the late 1980s. One autumn afternoon in Mexico City, seventeen-year-old Luisa does not return home from school. Instead, she boards a bus to the Pacific coast with Tomás, a boy she barely knows. He seems to represent everything her l Pulsing to the soundtrack of Joy Division, Nick Cave, and Siouxsie and the Banshees, Sea Monsters offers an intoxicating portrait of Mexico in the late 1980s. One autumn afternoon in Mexico City, seventeen-year-old Luisa does not return home from school. Instead, she boards a bus to the Pacific coast with Tomás, a boy she barely knows. He seems to represent everything her life is lacking—recklessness, impulse, independence. Tomás may also help Luisa fulfill an unusual obsession: she wants to track down a traveling troupe of Ukrainian dwarfs. According to newspaper reports, the dwarfs recently escaped a Soviet circus touring Mexico. The imagined fates of these performers fill Luisa’s surreal dreams as she settles in a beach community in Oaxaca. Surrounded by hippies, nudists, beachcombers, and eccentric storytellers, Luisa searches for someone, anyone, who will “promise, no matter what, to remain a mystery.” It is a quest more easily envisioned than accomplished. As she wanders the shoreline and visits the local bar, Luisa begins to disappear dangerously into the lives of strangers on Zipolite, the “Beach of the Dead.” Meanwhile, her father has set out to find his missing daughter. A mesmeric portrait of transgression and disenchantment unfolds. Sea Monsters is a brilliantly playful and supple novel about the moments and mysteries that shape us.


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Pulsing to the soundtrack of Joy Division, Nick Cave, and Siouxsie and the Banshees, Sea Monsters offers an intoxicating portrait of Mexico in the late 1980s. One autumn afternoon in Mexico City, seventeen-year-old Luisa does not return home from school. Instead, she boards a bus to the Pacific coast with Tomás, a boy she barely knows. He seems to represent everything her l Pulsing to the soundtrack of Joy Division, Nick Cave, and Siouxsie and the Banshees, Sea Monsters offers an intoxicating portrait of Mexico in the late 1980s. One autumn afternoon in Mexico City, seventeen-year-old Luisa does not return home from school. Instead, she boards a bus to the Pacific coast with Tomás, a boy she barely knows. He seems to represent everything her life is lacking—recklessness, impulse, independence. Tomás may also help Luisa fulfill an unusual obsession: she wants to track down a traveling troupe of Ukrainian dwarfs. According to newspaper reports, the dwarfs recently escaped a Soviet circus touring Mexico. The imagined fates of these performers fill Luisa’s surreal dreams as she settles in a beach community in Oaxaca. Surrounded by hippies, nudists, beachcombers, and eccentric storytellers, Luisa searches for someone, anyone, who will “promise, no matter what, to remain a mystery.” It is a quest more easily envisioned than accomplished. As she wanders the shoreline and visits the local bar, Luisa begins to disappear dangerously into the lives of strangers on Zipolite, the “Beach of the Dead.” Meanwhile, her father has set out to find his missing daughter. A mesmeric portrait of transgression and disenchantment unfolds. Sea Monsters is a brilliantly playful and supple novel about the moments and mysteries that shape us.

53 review for Sea Monsters

  1. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    This novel is filled with wonder and surprise. Gorgeous passages evoke a sense of wanderlust, of comfortable dislocation and a sort of longed for isolation. It’s rare to find a novel that marries the post punk, gothic influences of my youth to the sun drenched, Oaxacan daydream of my current existence. Chloe Aridjis, someone skilled in the painterly art of wordscapes and with such an internationally replete experience, deftly explores this odd combination.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Stewart Home

    The prose is beautiful & the narrative details Mexican goth subculture in the 1980s. The first part is set in Mexico City but the two teen protagonists run away to a beach town, which creates a wonderful tension between the geographical setting and the post-punk style favoured by our anti-heroes. The descriptions of music clubs are groovy, and our two goths have fabulous cinematic tastes - on a date they go to see a revival of Muñecos infernales (or Curse of the Doll People from 1961 as it's The prose is beautiful & the narrative details Mexican goth subculture in the 1980s. The first part is set in Mexico City but the two teen protagonists run away to a beach town, which creates a wonderful tension between the geographical setting and the post-punk style favoured by our anti-heroes. The descriptions of music clubs are groovy, and our two goths have fabulous cinematic tastes - on a date they go to see a revival of Muñecos infernales (or Curse of the Doll People from 1961 as it's known to English audiences). The seventeen year-old narrator visits the flat in which William Burroughs accidentally killed his wife and has Lautréamont's Les Chants de Maldoror as her beach reading. Perfect!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Varsha Ravi (between.bookends)

    3.5/5 Imprisoned on this island, I would say, Imprisoned on this island. And yet I was no prisoner and this was no island. And so begins this book that read like the waking hour from a lucid dream. A story tinged on the outer fringes with little oddities, and absurdities, but never quite straying into the realm of magical realism. Set in the blinding sunlit dusty streets of Mexico, Sea Monsters is a contemporary, off-beat story of a 17-year-old teenager, Luisa, who one day, decides to run away fro 3.5/5 Imprisoned on this island, I would say, Imprisoned on this island. And yet I was no prisoner and this was no island. And so begins this book that read like the waking hour from a lucid dream. A story tinged on the outer fringes with little oddities, and absurdities, but never quite straying into the realm of magical realism. Set in the blinding sunlit dusty streets of Mexico, Sea Monsters is a contemporary, off-beat story of a 17-year-old teenager, Luisa, who one day, decides to run away from home with a boy she only barely knows but is deeply infatuated with. No, it's not a love story. Far from it. Sea Monsters isn't really about the plot or the characters. Rather it paints an intoxicating portrait of Mexican youth culture in the late 1990's, a slice of life story following two adolescents in the cusp of feigned maturity. It's narrated in the first person from Luisa's perspective but surprisingly you don't quite uncover her character all that well. There's a careless spontaneity to the narrative voice that feels both intimate and yet distanced. It's stunningly written. Moments of utterly, breathtaking prose. The premise had immense potential, but somehow it never completely came to fruition. It felt lacking in depth in some respect. The motives of the different characters, the reasons behind their decisions never quite evident, so the story seemed to float on the surface, with the faintest logical thread holding it together. And that is the only complaint of significance that I have against this book. Towards the end there's this one line of self-introspection, that really is the same question that I, as the reader was asking as well. Why Luisa? A question, an event, compressed into a fist, like a sentence compressed into an apostrophe that when released springs back to its original form. Despite my criticism, I still really liked it and would recommend it. The atmosphere, the heat and relentless rains of Mexico, the ocean and all its vastness and the monsters that lurk deep beneath the waters, Zipolite, the beach of the dead, all come rivetingly alive on the page. The writing keeps you dumbfounded and guessing to an end that is maybe a little too neatly tied.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    I received my copy of Sea Monsters through Edelweiss+. I read Aridjis's Book of Clouds years ago, and I really enjoyed it, so I thought I would also enjoy Sea Monsters. I didn't think it held up as well for two reasons. First, there's far too much storytelling and not nearly enough storyshowing. What I mean by this is that there's very little development in the characters and plot. It's as if the reader experiences the story as a diorama: Everything has already happened and everyone is already the I received my copy of Sea Monsters through Edelweiss+. I read Aridjis's Book of Clouds years ago, and I really enjoyed it, so I thought I would also enjoy Sea Monsters. I didn't think it held up as well for two reasons. First, there's far too much storytelling and not nearly enough storyshowing. What I mean by this is that there's very little development in the characters and plot. It's as if the reader experiences the story as a diorama: Everything has already happened and everyone is already there, and we peer in to see what's going on. Because of this I didn't see anything fresh in the prose. Second, the stream-of-consciousness style Aridjis employs coupled with the static nature described above just doesn't work. It made it feel like the book itself was a distraction rather than a narrator being distracted by their memories or thoughts. That said, the content is strong and Aridjis knows how to turn a sentence. It's well-written when we look at the trees. But, for me, the forest needs some work. https://nosenseofstyle.blogspot.com/2018/12/sea-monsters-by-chloe-aridjis.html

  5. 4 out of 5

    Angie

    On the surface, there isn't much going on here. Girl runs away from home to the beach, gets bored. But in the swirling imagination of Luisa, where we spend our time in this book, everything has the potential to be the leading edge of an adventure, a mystery. She's a capital R Romantic, and is continually disappointed by those around her. She listens to goth rock from the 80s, and since I was unfamiliar with this genre, I looked up her albums online and listened to them while reading, which I rec On the surface, there isn't much going on here. Girl runs away from home to the beach, gets bored. But in the swirling imagination of Luisa, where we spend our time in this book, everything has the potential to be the leading edge of an adventure, a mystery. She's a capital R Romantic, and is continually disappointed by those around her. She listens to goth rock from the 80s, and since I was unfamiliar with this genre, I looked up her albums online and listened to them while reading, which I recommend. It helps get into her mindset. The story is a painting of a moment in time, complete with a soundtrack, of a young woman's life and Mexico in the 80s. It's a beautiful moment to savor youth and beaches and the sea and the deep metaphors that can wrap themselves around those things. I got a copy to review from the publisher through Edelweiss.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lauren

    Catapult was kind enough to send me a galley of SEA MONSTERS, a novel about a teenage girl, Luisa, as she becomes obsessed with a strange boy named Tomas and eventually runs away with him to the seaside town of Zipolite in Oaxaca. There, the two drift apart, and Luisa becomes enraptured by the strangers who dot the Beach of the Dead. . But the main craft of the novel is in all of the strange and mesmeric transgressions of Luisa and the mysterious ways in which strangers shape our lives. Aridjis’ w Catapult was kind enough to send me a galley of SEA MONSTERS, a novel about a teenage girl, Luisa, as she becomes obsessed with a strange boy named Tomas and eventually runs away with him to the seaside town of Zipolite in Oaxaca. There, the two drift apart, and Luisa becomes enraptured by the strangers who dot the Beach of the Dead. . But the main craft of the novel is in all of the strange and mesmeric transgressions of Luisa and the mysterious ways in which strangers shape our lives. Aridjis’ writing is poetic and strange, but it moves well and she has a talent for understanding how the minute things in a person’s life affect who they are.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Donna Foster

    Super strange and wildly weird.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lolly K Dandeneau

    via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/ 'It was impossible to recall how those four syllables, Tomás Román, had once felt like an incantation, strong enough to hex school and city, the initials TR evoking the promise of anything, two consonants awaiting a vowel awaiting an act.' Luisa, 17 years old and living in Mexico City in the 1980’s is miserable among her own peers, a misfit whose musical tastes (Siouxsie and the Banshees, Nick Cave, The Cure, Joy Division) swayed me to request th via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/ 'It was impossible to recall how those four syllables, Tomás Román, had once felt like an incantation, strong enough to hex school and city, the initials TR evoking the promise of anything, two consonants awaiting a vowel awaiting an act.' Luisa, 17 years old and living in Mexico City in the 1980’s is miserable among her own peers, a misfit whose musical tastes (Siouxsie and the Banshees, Nick Cave, The Cure, Joy Division) swayed me to request this novel. Enter Tomás Román, TR the boy who seems like a promise of something other, a boy who she didn’t even like but couldn’t deny being intrigued by as he began making appearances in her life. Tomás, that ‘sliver of black slicing through the so-called calm of the morning’ a proud drop-out, master of his days is everything she wants to be, fearless and free. It is with this teenage boy of 19 she runs away but it is the newspaper article she happened upon that inspires her to run to Oaxaca. A strange story about 12 Ukrainian dwarfs having escaped a Russian Circus, said to be headed to the coast of Oaxaca, finally something thrilling and exciting for her to latch onto. It is her idea to go, and so they do. It takes quite a bit of time to reach that part of the story, trudging through their early days when he appeared on the scene, her father’s stories about shipwrecks and aquariums. The writing is beautiful, I highlighted like crazy but I spent a lot of time wondering when I would find something to latch onto. One can sense, as the novel finally gets more steam, the desire for flight and her struggle with shame for the pain her disappearance must be causing her parents and yet not caring enough to end her trip, wanting to claim her independence. She should be in the city, preparing for her future with college interviews, not going to the beach with a stranger, not worrying her parents whom by all accounts aren’t bad people. On Zipolite, the beach of the dead, well-known as a dangerous place for swimming, a vagabond’s paradise, Luisa begins to be bored by Tomás and searches for stimulation in other people on the beach, like the sultry stranger she calls the merman. Much like she did with Tomás, she builds a story about him, based on nothing but her longings. Mostly she spends her time suffering some sort of melancholy, absorbing the sun and ocean, not quite giving the cathartic effect most people experience beside the sea. Aridjis nailed the listlessness that many teenagers feel, when on the cusp of adult decisions. The novel has a dreamy landscape, because half the time Luisa seems like a sleepwalker, unable to define why she has taken this out of character journey. She is mostly aimless through the entire novel, idleness would have been a grand title. I am still not entirely sure what the story was about, I confess. There is good writing, but I wasn’t fully engaged, I think I was still waiting for something to happen, which now that I think of it is exactly how it feels when you are a teenager, waiting for life to happen. Publication Date: February 5, 2019 Catapult

  9. 4 out of 5

    Alicia

  10. 4 out of 5

    Margaret

  11. 4 out of 5

    Katie Kucek

  12. 5 out of 5

    Margaret

  13. 4 out of 5

    Eva

  14. 5 out of 5

    Junkyard

  15. 5 out of 5

    BetweenLinesAndLife

    This was a buddy read with my dear friend Matthew. Thanks to him I could read this book early. I really enjoyed the atmosphere and tone of this book alongside the beautiful writing. Unfortunately I could not connect to the main character, in fact I found her to be a bit annoying. It also lacked a bit of reasons behind the actions, we got glimpses, but never quite got there and I personally felt the ending was rather arbitrary in regards of the timing. It felt like a great concept not meeting its f This was a buddy read with my dear friend Matthew. Thanks to him I could read this book early. I really enjoyed the atmosphere and tone of this book alongside the beautiful writing. Unfortunately I could not connect to the main character, in fact I found her to be a bit annoying. It also lacked a bit of reasons behind the actions, we got glimpses, but never quite got there and I personally felt the ending was rather arbitrary in regards of the timing. It felt like a great concept not meeting its full potential. Though I would recommend reading it for the atmosphere alone!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Catapult

  17. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

  18. 5 out of 5

    Abbie

  19. 5 out of 5

    Emily

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sarah-Hope

  21. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Jean

  22. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

  23. 5 out of 5

    Fidan Lurin

  24. 5 out of 5

    Friederike

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kristian

  27. 4 out of 5

    Maddie C.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Christina

  29. 5 out of 5

    Beth

  30. 5 out of 5

    Paula

  31. 5 out of 5

    Ari

  32. 5 out of 5

    Ole

  33. 5 out of 5

    Gary Budden

  34. 5 out of 5

    Shalini | Book Rambler

  35. 4 out of 5

    Molly

  36. 5 out of 5

    Agnese

  37. 4 out of 5

    Camille

  38. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

  39. 4 out of 5

    Henna

  40. 4 out of 5

    Megan Benavidez

  41. 5 out of 5

    Maria Luiza Vianna

  42. 5 out of 5

    Dullahan

  43. 4 out of 5

    Hannah.w

  44. 5 out of 5

    Montana

  45. 4 out of 5

    Alix

  46. 5 out of 5

    Nayeli

  47. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

  48. 4 out of 5

    Chloe Abley

  49. 5 out of 5

    James Elliott

  50. 5 out of 5

    Tamsien West (Babbling Books)

  51. 4 out of 5

    Sanjana

  52. 4 out of 5

    Toni

  53. 5 out of 5

    Dana

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