cover image Eloquence of the Sardine: Extraordinary Encounters Beneath the Sea

Eloquence of the Sardine: Extraordinary Encounters Beneath the Sea

Bill François, trans. from the French by Antony Shugaar. St. Martins, $26.99 (192p) ISBN 978-1-250-27243-0

Marine scientist François surveys underwater creatures of all sorts in his illuminating debut collection of 15 essays that lay bare his fascination with deep waters that teem with crab, shrimp, and “scarlet sea anemones [he] didn’t dare touch.” In “Before,” the author fondly remembers the first time he saw a live sardine, “shining and silvery, with an electric blue line like a garland along its back.” “Are Fish Good at School?” sees François marveling at the brainpower of octopuses and facetiously comparing what he learned (or didn’t) in classrooms with fish, who learn “all they need to know” without school. “In Tune with the Tuna,” meanwhile, roughly charts the ubiquity of the fish as food, from school cafeteria tuna fish sandwiches to fatty tuna served in pricey sushi restaurants, and in“Hold an Eel by the Tale,” François tags along with a “gang of Parisian street-fishers” who pick locks and trespass to get a look at the Seine’s inhabitants. François’s tone is conversational, and his passion and excitement are contagious: “Have you ever seen a live sardine? Few people know just how lovely a live sardine is.” The result is a fun deep dive into marine life. Agent: Carole Saudejaud, Fayard. (Aug.)