Writer: Sarah Moss
Publishing House: Picador
Date of Publication: August 20th 2020
Rating: 5 stars
‘’Dawn. There’s no sunrise, no birdsong.
Light seeps over the water, through the branches. The sky is lying on the loch, filling the trees, heavy in the spaces between the pine needles, settling between blades of grass and mottling the pebbles on the beach. Although there’s no distance between cloud and land, nowhere for rain to fall, it is raining; the sounds of water on leaves and bark, on roofs and stones, windows and cars, become as constant as the sounds of blood and air in your own body.’‘
Midsummer is a strange time of the year. Fascinating, even for a winter lover. There’s something mystical and hidden in the sound of the word. Midsummer…When the long, sleepy days, the hazy afternoons, the sultry evenings call for cold wine, lanterns on the parches, and companionship. And secrets that are about to be unleashed. In the new novel by Sarah Moss, strangers intended to spend a few days in a beautiful landscape in the Scottish Highlands. Those days were meant to be carefree, playful, sensual. But the rain doesn’t seem to stop and what about those weird neighbours that disturb the peace of the place by playing horrible, loud music all night long?
‘’The sky has turned a yellowish shade of grey, the colour of bandages, or thickened skin on old white feet. Rain simmers in pabbles. Trees drip. Grass lies low, some of it beginning to drawn in pooling water, because even here, even when the aquifers are in constant use and the landscape curved by the rain for its own purposes, the earth cannot hold so much water in one day. Under the hedges, in the hollows of tall trees, birdsdroop and wilt, grounded, waiting. Small creatures in the burrows nose the air and stay hungry.
There will be deaths by morning.’’
Sarah Moss is a unique writer in today’s Fiction. Following the marvellous, twisted Ghost Wall, Summerwater is a novel twice as dark and secretive as its predecessor. In short chapters, we enter the minds of the people who chose to spend their holidays in the heart of the Scottish nature. Written in an exemplary form of stream-of-consciousness style, their thoughts and darkest wishes. The constant rainfall causes passions and regrets to come to the surface.
Moss is a highly gifted writer. The Scottish nature, the rain reflect the harshness of the characters who seem to be in a crossroads of their lives, trying to keep appearances and lying to themselves.Parenthood and the always relevant issue of the generation gap, along with the crushing of mutual expectations. Self-harm, despair, isolation are themes depicted in a challenging, yet understated, quiet way. Underneath the psychological implications lies the uncertainty over the future, the question of whether our lives, our societies, our planet will last. The complexity of the post- Brexit era is evident. And the vixens, the owls, the wolves and the bats observe the world of the humans falling apart.
My only objection was the ‘’Zanzibar’’ chapter. It was hideous, in my opinion. Disgusting, resembling the work of a different writer. Cheap and distasteful. There were also a few gross details that didn’t seem to add anything to the themes.
Summerwater is a book read like a mysterious walk. As if we’re passing outside houses lit by the caramel lights as the summer night approaches, and we can’t resist having a look, peering through the windows, invading the residents’ privacy, experiencing brief moments of their lives. Except we are intruding their most secrets thoughts as well…
This is one of the best literary offerings of the year.
‘’Behind the music, the sounds around her change. A wind strokes the hillside, disturbs the trees, lifts the rain sideways into her face. Go on then, rain on me.’’
Many thanks to Picador and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.