In the Springtime of the Year by Susan Hill **
‘After just a year of close, loving marriage, Ruth has been widowed. Her beloved husband, Ben, has been killed in a tragic accident and Ruth is left, suddenly and totally bereft. Unable to share her sorrow and grief with Ben’s family, who are dealing with their pain in their own way, Ruth becomes increasingly isolated, burying herself in her cottage in the countryside as the seasons change around her. Only Ben’s young brother Jo, is able to reach out beyond his own grief, to offer Ruth the compassion which might reclaim her from her own devastating unhappiness. The result is a moving, lyrical exploration of love and loss, of grief and mourning, from a masterful writer.’
I find Hill’s novels a little hit and miss; this particular tome falls somewhere close to the latter. It wasn’t awful, but I did find it a touch lacklustre. Whilst it is written well, there are rather a lot of repetitions with regard to the protagonist Ruth’s thoughts and feelings, and I felt little sympathy for her with regard to her sudden thrust into widowhood because she just didn’t feel realistic. It didn’t quite live up to its interesting premise, and a lot of the secondary characters were incredibly shadowy. I think I might just stick to Hill’s non-fiction in future.
The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss *****
‘Adam is a stay-at-home dad who is also working on a history of the bombing and rebuilding of Coventry Cathedral. He is a good man and he is happy. But one day, he receives a call from his daughter’s school to inform him that, for no apparent reason, fifteen-year-old Miriam has collapsed and stopped breathing. In that moment, he is plunged into a world of waiting, agonising, not knowing. The story of his life and the lives of his family are rewritten and re-told around this shocking central event, around a body that has inexplicably failed. In this exceptionally courageous and unflinching novel of contemporary life Sarah Moss goes where most of us wouldn’t dare to look, and the result is riveting – unbearably sad, but also miraculously funny and ultimately hopeful.‘
The Tidal Zone was a highly anticipated read for me, as it was the last outstanding Moss I had to read. I love her writing, and have been engrossed in every single one of her books to date. I am so pleased to say that The Tidal Zone was the cherry on rather a delicious cake. I love the way in which the novel’s plot circles around a singular moment, drifting back and forth in time. From the first, Moss’ writing is beautifully poetic, and the entirety of the novel is profound and compelling. Moss masterfully ties so much together here – history, biology, geography, relationships, the NHS, and the Second World War – whilst making it an unfailing human novel. Wonderfully paced, with an authentic narrative voice and an achingly realistic cast of characters at its heart, The Tidal Zone is a sheer masterpiece.