Friday, November 4, 2016

Fiction Friday (47)

What is one to do when in a foreign country and has finished the book one has carried overseas? Of course, if that said person read ebooks, it wouldn't be a problem. I am that one and I  don't read ebooks! I took to searching the shelves of the house I was staying in for any book in English. Thankfully my in-laws all read English, though I had slim pickings in my room and I needed something to read before going to sleep. So I grabbed the first book I found, a slim and intriguing novel which I began that night and finished a few days later. Here are my thoughts.

Salt Water by Charles Simmons
(Chronicle 1998)

This slim novel is a contemporary retelling of Turgenev's classic tale "First Love," which I have not read and therefor can make no comparison. It takes place during a summer spent at a summer house on an isolated island off the coast. It is the summer when the main character falls in love for the first time at the age of fifteen.

Amid the tale of love and coming of age, the narrative explores the dynamics of family relationships, the way marriage evolves and eventually ebbs as children grow, and the shifting nature of emotions that don't often occur in seismic waves, but rather in small sometimes unnoticed tremors. The writing style captures this as well with its carefully constructed telling and what it chooses to reveal and conceal.

Though there's nothing earth shattering about this book, I would even venture to characterize it as a "quiet" novel, though I hate that term, it is well-done. If anything, I felt that the quiet style lessened the potential emotional impact of the story.

Oddly enough, I started reading it without knowing anything about it. About a third of the way through, I looked to see when it was written because it felt very much like a late '90s style of novel, and sure enough, it was. It's funny how enough time has passed that there is a definitive feel to books written during those years to make them identifiable. It reminded me of novels from Louise Erdrich and Kirsty Gunn, though perhaps less compelling. Enjoyable and quick.

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