Let’s start with what it’s about, shall we? Then we’ll get down to it.
The book starts with an idyllic picnic. Guy and his adorable daughter Freya are walking through a field admiring all the gorgeous nature around them, Guy’s wife and Freya’s mother Judy lounging under a tree with a book of poetry. Freya is precocious, in a charming, not precious, way, with her four-year-old’s curiosity about things and her clear adoration of her father; an adoration that is obviously mutual. The sweet details of a baby’s breath that smells malty, laundered cotton dresses and a child’s happiness serve to bring the reader immediately closer to this obviously delightful child.
So, when what happens so quickly in the first 18 pages happens, the reader (if they are not a cold-hearted shrew) is heartbroken and looking for answers. The next chapter starts up 5 years later, with Guy, alone, and drifting in a cold sea in an old barge. He’s making it through his days by writing in a journal at night, writing of how things could have been if that terrible thing had not happened.
And here lies the heart of my problem with this book. While I was delighted with the way Page can turn a phrase, the book is borderline poetic, and am in love with the slow, meandering way he took to unfold this story of Guy and how he learns to live with that “heartbreaking thing”, I can’t help but feel manipulated a little bit.
And I mean manipulated like Nicolas Sparks or Jodi Picoult manipulated.
I can take sad. I can take tragic. I can’t take writing that feels like the clear intent is to make me sad. I need resolution. I need the feeling that this is sad for a reason more important that just making me cry; which is how the two Nicolas Sparks I managed to choke down made me feel. I loved Jodi Picoult until the final chapter of My Sisters Keeper. Now THAT was manipulation.
Now, this could just be me. I wasn’t really in the mood for a book this depressing. I do love Jeremy Page’s writing enough to look up his first novel, Salt. His writing is gorgeous. Witness:
This is his moment, Guy knows, and he reaches out into the thick, nothingness between him and the giant ship and he asks for her, he asks whether she’s here with him, with him now. You are, aren’t you, he says and his voice sounds like two voices- one, so full of acceptance, the other, so afraid. On no, he says, oh God not now. And then he grabs the top of the wheelhouse, bracing pathetically, as the cliff edges of the container ship overhang, bear down, then slide enormously alongside the Flood in an impenetrable solid shadow.
And that’s just picking a page at random. You can pick any page at random and find just lovely ways of putting things, the kind of writing I could eat like dessert. I wish this novel had found me at the right time. I’m almost certain it would have made a difference.
This was a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own. Thanks to Penguin for supplying my copy of this book.