Publisher: Jonathan Cape
Publication Date: 17th Jan 2019
This book featured in my most anticipated reads of 2019 post that I published at the end of 2018. You can check out that post here.
I read Silver & Salt way back in 2017 and loved it. It’s included in a mini reading wrap up here from when I wasn’t an ‘official’ bookblogger.
Elanor Dymott intrigues me as an author, as soon as I’d read Silver & Salt I immediately went online and found what else she’d written and this led to me having Every Contact Leaves A Trace on my shelf which I’ve yet to read.
Slack-Tide tells the story of Elizabeth, a 40 year woman who’s marriage fell apart 4 years ago after the tragic loss of her baby daughter. Elizabeth has spent the last 4 years learning to become fiercely independent and suffering a few disastrous dates and ill-fated, short lived relationships.
When her close friend asks her to stand in on a cinema date with a man from her book group, Elizabeth reluctantly agrees. Robert is a 52 year old architect with an ex-wife Lena and an adult son Phillipe. He swiftly begins an intense relationship with Elizabeth. Showering her with gifts, paying for expensive meals, and sending her heartfelt emotionally heavy emails.
Initially Elizabeth is dubious of Robert and his intensity, particularly after having to become so self sufficient and independent, however she soon allows herself to let her guard down, and begin to fall for him.
We know right from the first few pages that this passionate, intense love affair doesn’t last:
‘By midsummer the thing between us was finished, and it was as if a storm had torn the roof from over me’
Robert being an older gentleman let’s Elizabeth know that he is unsure whether children will feature in his life in the future, whereas Elizabeth, having suffered such tragic loss knows intrinsically that she must have a child of her own.
They make a deal that when Robert decides for certain that he doesn’t want children he will walk away from their relationship and Elizabeth will be free to find a partner who shares her desire to have children. Deep down Elizabeth hopes that Robert’s passionate displays of affection and the way he has ingrained himself so deeply into her life means that he will eventually share her desires for a family.
This story is a fascinating look at a doomed love affair. I felt like a reluctant spectator watching a relationship slowly unravel and come apart. Even though I knew what eventually must happen I was still so invested in Elizabeth and Robert’s relationship.
Whilst the blurb for this book mentions a ‘coercive’ relationship I didn’t feel as if Elizabeth was entirely under Robert’s spell. There were times when she kicked back against his domineering ways and did exactly the opposite of what he was expecting of her. And whilst Robert was indeed a little odd in his ways, allowing his friends to look down on Elizabeth, dropping her whenever he felt like it then needily expecting Elizabeth to change her plans for him when he was free. Constantly talking about his ex wife Lena and their marriage and allowing her to be a constant, lingering shadow over their relationship. Some of his behaviour is distinctly disconcerting and uncomfortable to read.
‘In a book by Adam Phillips, Robert has underlined passages. ‘If you want to make someone fall for you’, one of the passages read, ‘intrude, invade, insert yourself’. I sat with the book in my hands for some time, thinking about the stream of empty hotel envelopes Robert had sent me from his trips. Once, he’d enclosed a room service slip with a heart scrawled in the corner, our initials entwined inside it. Another time was a subway ticket from New York and a map of Manhattan on a plastic card. On a trip to Toronto he’d sent a chocolate bar wrapper in a tissue paper envelope. Turning it over, I had just been able to make out the letters L-O-V-E stamped into the foil, intaglio style. I’d always imagined those things to be proxies for the letters he didn’t have time to write. That evening in his apartment though, I read further in the Adam Phillips. ‘Take every opportunity to put yourself in their field of vision,’ the underlined extract concluded. ‘Interfere with every aspect of their life’.
What I really love about Dymott’s writing is that it’s sparse and not over-written, no flowery, fancy prose, she tells it like it is. Highly relatable and engaging, I really did just devour it within a couple of hours one Sunday afternoon.
It gave me slight Almost Love by Louise O’Neill vibes but in a more mature setting. If you’re looking for a plot based story then this book isn’t for you. It’s most definitely a character study, a relationship study really. Whilst we know that Elizabeth has suffered the loss of her child, it is only ever referred back to sporadically but we also know that this tragic event has shaped her into the person she is.
With themes of love, loss and passionate heartache, this book was such a thoroughly enjoyable read.
A solid 4 stars from me.
The only thing I wasn’t keen on was that both the characters used the word ‘Honey’ CONSTANTLY. Such a small gripe but I hate that word! I’ll overlook it just this once because the book is so so good.
See you soon.
Amanda – Bookish Chat xxx