What can you say about a book set on a trawler. Well there is obviously more to it than that. Invoking the genre of maritime fiction, the trawl though the sea invites a quest into the self.
In Trawl the narrator has routines surrounding his job which allow him to draw on memories unexamined. Johnson such a voyage in preparation to write the novel. 1001 Books comments how "In Trawl, Johnson reminds us that cherished memories can offer ambiguous forms of self-consolation- cautioning us to query what we selectively choose to forget."
An experimentalist his failure to succeed commercially and beset by family problems, this led to depression and suicide at forty years of age. Interest has been revived through a cult following and in 2004 Jonathan Coe published his biography Like a Fiery Elephant.