In 1981, before overfishing and over-regulation decimated the commercial salmon industry, Vancouver native Sylvia Taylor was employed as a rookie deckhand on a troller off the coast of B.C. Taylor, who was in her twenties, signed up for the four-month gig to raise money for university, and as a result of her relationship with Paul, her lover and the owner of the boat. During her time on board, Taylor kept a personal diary, which served as the basis for this literary memoir.
Taylor’s detailed notes and descriptions account for much of The Fisher Queen’s strength. The book is replete with interesting information, including details about the process of making salmon jerky and the way salmon guts can cause lesions on human hands. As a woman in a male-dominated environment, Taylor brings a fresh perspective to a punishing way of life.
Less effective are Taylor’s attempts to re-create dialogue, which often feel inauthentic and forced. The author also fixates on Paul’s appearance, and often flits from subject to subject, moving indiscriminately from First Nations’ lore to how to tie gear to a recreation of a dramatic incident on board ship. This hodgepodge can be confusing, which is a shame, as Taylor has a good story to tell. The Fisher Queen suffers from a lack of discipline, not dull subject matter.