About Me

My photo
Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada
My virtue is that I say what I think, my vice that what I think doesn't amount to much.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Secrets Of The Sea

I liked three other books I've read by Nicholas Shakespeare (The Dancer Upstairs, Bruce Chatwin and Snowleg) so I was looking forward to reading this one. I started it once and put it down, then again and gave it up. In December I decided to give it one more try and I'm glad I did because underneath it I found some Christmas cards from the British Library that I'd misplaced.
This time I made it through the novel but it was slow going at first. This is the  story of Alex and Merridy, two outsiders with tormented family histories who meet, marry and try to make a life together on a farm in Tasmania. The children they'd hoped for do not come and a rift develops between the already emotionally withdrawn pair. Then Alex rescues Kish, a mysterious, quiet young man who was shipwrecked and whose presence puts their already tenuous relationship at risk.
There are other characters circling around the periphery: Merridy's bawdy cousin and her rapacious real estate husband, Merridy's religious fanatic mother, Albert Talbert who publishes a newsletter (an excerpt from which opens each chapter) and various other small town types who give the reader a sense of what it's like to live in an introverted, gossipy community of just 600 people in Tasmania.
The book builds very slowly and at times reading it feels like swimming through an endless sea of sadness. Once Kish arrives on the scene the pace picks up. Ultimately Merridy makes a discovery about the tragedy in her past that allows her to move on emotionally and Alex, after an awful struggle, finds he is able to forgive.
And I found myself glad to have made the effort to read the book and not only because I found those Christmas cards just in the nick of time.

No comments: