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Sea Change by Gina Chung review: Busy plotting undoes wry wit

Sea Change is is often wry and funny, but the novel is just too busy, with multiple competing plot lines giving a lack of balance

Sea Change by Gina Chung

Sea Change by Gina Chung is out on August 10 (Pan Macmillan, £14.99)

A book likely to go unnoticed, and not without reason, is Gina Chung’s Sea Change. A work that simply screams writers’ workshop, it tells the tale of Ro as she faces several dilemmas in her life. First off, her father is missing and presumed dead after leaving on a doomed sea expedition. Her boyfriend is about to go on a one-way mission to Mars. And, perhaps worst of all, the giant octopus who she is best friends with is about to be sold to a private aquarium. The novel balances these dilemmas with flashback scenes of Ro’s childhood. 

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As is already obvious, Sea Change simply just tries to do too much in its 288 pages. Chung’s prose cannot be faulted, she is often wry and funny, but the novel is just too busy, to the point where it seems even the book itself forgets its own plots, the one about her boyfriend going to Mars only appearing seemingly when the author herself remembers it. 

The book also isn’t helped by the fact that it is just too similar to other recent works, all of which do a better job, such as Julia Armfield’s Our Wives Under the Sea and Melissa Broder’s The Pisces. It will be interesting, however, to see what Chung does next. 

Barry Pierce is a journalist and cultural commentator

Sea Change by Gina Chung is out on 10 August (Pan Macmillan, £14.99). You can buy it from The Big Issue shop on Bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops.

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