The Fish Girl

By Mirandi Riwoe Seizure

Sparked by the description of a ‘Malay trollope’ in W. Somerset Maugham’s story, ‘The Four Dutchmen’, The Fish Girl tells of an Indonesian girl whose life is changed irrevocably when she moves from a small fishing village to work in the house of a Dutch merchant. There she finds both hardship and tenderness as her traditional past and colonial present collide.

Told with an exquisitely restrained voice and coloured with lush description, this moving book will stay with you long after the last page.

Mirandi Riwoe

Mirandi Riwoe is a Brisbane-based writer. Her novella The Fish Girl won Seizure’s Viva la Novella prize and her debut novel, She be Damned, was released in 2017. Her work has appeared in Best Australian Stories, Review of Australian Fiction, Rex, Peril and Shibboleth and Other Stories, and she has received fellowships from the Queensland Literary Awards and Griffith Review. Mirandi has a PhD in Creative Writing and Literary Studies.

Judges' report

Mirandi Riwoe’s novella, The Fish Girl, packs a punch. A subversive postcolonial work of fiction, Riwoe inverts the white colonial gaze informing the portrayal of the ‘Malay trollop’ who causes serious divisions among shipmates in W. Somerset Maugham’s short story ‘The Four Dutchmen’. Compelling and evocative, The Fish Girl follows Mina, a shy Indonesian village girl who commences work in the kitchen of a Dutch merchant, only to discover her life continuing to unfold at the mercy of men who do not necessarily have her best interests in mind. The story draws on Sundanese mythology, with Mina finding solace in visiting a nearby beach at night, where she communes with the Ocean Queen, Nyai Loro Kidul, a goddess of the sea. Demonstrating mastery in economical storytelling, The Fish Girl is an immersive and deeply affecting literary gem from a powerful emerging voice in Australian fiction.

Further reading


‘The Fish Girl brings Mina to life—in fact gifts her a life that the source material denies, a life in all its rich, beautiful, sensory detail; this is a short novella at 97 pages, but it packs in a lot, giving Mina a voice, and a much more realistically-told version of the ending, an ending that will break your heart and remain with you for a long time.’ Damon Young, All the Novellas