Hands up who has a pile of reviews to write that’s almost as big as their pile of books waiting to be read? Me too, my friends, me too. No time like the present then! First up is Slack-Tide, a slim but powerful book I read at the tail end of last year. I picked it up on my trip to Book-ish in the summer. (Remember summer? Remember leaving the house?). I didn’t know anything about it and haven’t seen any reviews on it, but there was something from the blurb alone that drew me in. If it sounds a bit sad, a bit strange and female character-driven, then I’m in.
by Elanor Dymott
Published by Vintage Publishing 16/01/2020.
It is four years since the loss of a child broke her marriage, and Elizabeth is fiercely protective of her independence. She meets Robert – exuberant, generous, apparently care-free – and they fall in love with breath-taking speed.
Slack-Tide tracks the ebbs and flows of the affair: passionate, coercive, intensely sexual. When you’ve known lasting love and lost it, what price will you pay to find it again?
Slack-Tide centres around Elizabeth, a 40-something-year-old woman who lives in London. She is divorced and is four years on from losing her child, and meets Robert when she is set up on a blind date with him by a mutual friend. Robert is confident, generous and unexpected, and they quickly embark on a love affair.
Robert is full-on and I mean FULL-ON. He rings and texts Elizabeth incessantly, and immediately seeks to be included in her life. Elizabeth is less certain but definitely likes the attention and validation. Their relationship continues but their lifestyles don’t seem to align. Robert is rich and goes to fancy restaurants with his friends and buys Elizabeth gifts. Meanwhile, Elizabeth is an author of middling success who can’t afford such luxuries and would rather things be much more low-key.
So you might be thinking by now ‘why the hell are these two people together?’ I’ve got to be honest I was thinking the same. Sometimes I would let out an exasperated sigh at both of these characters because they were really winding me up. (But I should say, I don’t mind that at all, I’d rather an interesting but irritating character over a bland, predictable one any day.) If Robert wasn’t being a clingy sod, he was mentioning his wife Lena, who he is separated from and who we never meet but hangs like a shadow over their relationship. Then Elizabeth would acknowledge how annoying Robert was but still continue to put up with his nonsense time and time again. It was driving me insane. But that’s what real-life relationships can be like, right? Messy, contradictory and maddening – the author nailed it.
One of the key themes in the book is parenthood and all of the complicated emotions that come along with it. Elizabeth has lost a child and wants another, she thinks, and she is trying to establish if Robert will be, should be, a good person to have a baby with. Robert already has a grown-up son but he doesn’t let Elizabeth into that part of her life. You can feel the sadness and loss wash over the pages, as they both cope with the disappointments that parenthood, or the dream of it, has brought them.
If you like a good old fashioned beginning, middle and end story then Slack-Tide might not be for you. Instead, the story weaves between the then and now, with the end told pretty much at the beginning. I loved the pace of the storytelling and felt it really added to the ebb and flow of their relationship, so all or nothing. It was also told as if from a distance. You can almost imagine Elizabeth recanting this tale to a group at some party in the future after she’s had time to process it and she’s fine-tuned the story so she can tell it well.
Let me know if you’ve read Slack-Tide and what you thought of it, or if you have any recommendations similar.
Thank you for reading, until next time!