Summerwater by Sarah Moss
As the last time Mr A and I rented a holiday cottage, we came home a day early, I could identify with that. I could also identify with the rage at the woman, thought to work at the nearby hotel, who plays loud music well into the night. (In fact, I’d be banging on the door before her neighbours did.) Fortunately, the sense that something terrible’s going to happen is not my typical holiday experience. So I could enjoy the tension building on the page.
Narrated from the viewpoints of twelve different characters, interspersed with cameos from the natural world, it reminded me somewhat of Black Car Burning and Reservoir 13. All of the voices are beautifully realised, but my favourite has to be the humorous stream-of-consciousness portrayal of the young woman whose fiancé insists they learn how to have simultaneous orgasms. I also enjoyed the gentle digs at contemporary British politics. There’s a wide age range from a little girl of around five to a retired couple, one of whom might be in the early stages of dementia, albeit biased towards the younger demographic. I suppose the hail and healthy empty-nesters would be jetting off somewhere more exciting.
This is the fourth of Sarah Moss’ novels I’ve read – the most recent being Ghost Wall – and she gets better and better. Thanks to Picador for my review copy.
Ties by Domenico Starnone translated by Jhumpa Lahiri
The marriage does not seem salvageable yet, less than twenty pages later, we join a man in his early 70s, preparing to set off with his wife from their home in Rome to a hotel by the sea. It turns out to be Aldo, seemingly reconciled to Vanda, although concerned about their adult children who are not quite adult enough. Just before leaving he falls for a scam, but their holiday passes amicably. Their homecoming does not.
In the final section, their son and daughter, estranged for decades, meet up at the parental home where they’re supposed to be sharing care of the cat. Old wounds are reopened, skeletons removed from cupboards, affording the reader another perspective on this long marriage and the damage one man’s selfishness has wrought.
Having enjoyed his previous novel translated into English, Trick, I welcomed the offer of a review copy from publishers, Europa Editions. I enjoyed Ties even more, and will add it to my favourites of the year.