REVIEW: FINN & FISH: THE WASH CYCLE
I feel no small amount of pressure reviewing this work as better writers than me have written far better reviews about it. It was on the recommendation of one these writers, Maura Mc Hugh, that I sought out Leanne Hamilton at the 2D Festival in Derry and picked up a copy of the book. Usually, high expectation leads me to decide that I can’t possibly like the subject of the high praise and it turns me against the thing in advance (it is just the way my mind works). It wasn’t the case on this occasion. My first reaction on opening the book was an immediate gasp (it was out loud) at the art inside. I’ll try and convey this gasp into something resembling a coherent review.
The story is a retelling of the various adventures of Finn Mac Cumhaill except with a twist. Leanne Hamilton brings some Irish style humour to old Irish legend. She does this by adding the character of the smart mouth Salmon of Knowledge who is haunting Finn (or so Finn believes). The Salmon believes he is helping him train to be worthy of Fianna membership. I have grown up with the Finnian legends so I was familiar with a bulk of the material and the book stays true to the heart of those stories while at the same time the reader something new to enjoy. Some might object to this modernised take on the legends but I feel that the best way to keep these stories relevant is take them out of the dusty library, shake them off and tell them in a new voice. My only issue with the story telling was with the cameos of Oisin which I am not fully “getting” but I am sure that will become clearer as the story progresses.
A common compliment I have heard in relation to the art in this book begins with “I don’t usually like Manga but…” I have been guilty of using this when recommending it to other people. I only like a select few Manga books (I think the number could be counted using the fingers on my right hand with fingers to spare) but Leanne’s art style, while having a flavour of Manga, is a different animal. It is very suited to the humorous nature of the book and I enjoyed the over the top nature of the salmon character. It reminded of something you would see in a Ren & Stimpy cartoon and I like my Ren & Stimpy.
Leanne Hamilton has taken an old story and made it new again. The story can pass on to a new generation of Irish readers as it has in the past but in a format that will appeal to them. It also gives older readers a chance to take a new look at a very old story.