Based on the author’s personal experiences, Woman at Sea is the debut novel from French writer Catherine Poulain. Exploring the life of runaway Lili, who has left her home in France in search of adventure, the story follows Lili as she arrives in Alaska.
Having escaped the trappings of small town life in France, Lili travels to Kodiak, Alaska in search of work on a fishing boat. She quickly finds the work she’s looking for as the lone woman working on board the Rebel alongside a cast of quirky, if somewhat rough, characters. The story then follows Lili as she throws herself into work in the male-dominated environment, experiencing the hardships and stark realities of life on a fishing boat.
Poulain’s novel explores the intensity of the environment with remarkable control, evoking so vividly the sense of intensity of life at sea. Lili’s search for adventure and desire to feel alive draw her to this extreme environment, where everything is heightened, from the crashing waves, sounds of the ocean and the crew, and Lili’s own emotions. She experiences the physical and emotional demands of her new work, from trying to keep up with the rest of the crew, battling for meals and a bed, and falling in love.
Poulain’s realist descriptions transport the reader into Lili’s position seamlessly as we follow her through not only her work on the boat, but her own emotional torment. Poulain keeps much of Lili’s past, and even practical facts about her, relatively obscure, emphasising Lili’s desire to escape into her new life.
To indulge in a touch of escapism, lose yourself in Poulain’s novel, which makes seemingly easy work of immersing the reader in Lili’s turbulent new life at sea.