Thursday, 26 March 2015

The Shore by Sara Taylor

review by Maryom

The Shore is made up of a group of islands sitting off the coast of Virginia; the Atlantic Ocean to one side, calmer waters and marshes to the other. Their story is told through the lives of several generations spanning 200 years - often a violent story of domestic abuse, drug-addiction, murder and rape but mixed in with magic and hope, all set against the backdrop of windswept beauty.

 I'm not certain whether to refer to The Shore as a novel or a series of related stories - it's difficult to pin down and really a bit of both. Events don't unfold in chronological order but jump backwards and forwards along the timeline - the earliest story being set in 1876, the latest in 2143; the latter gives a clue that this isn't just another family epic, but moves on into a speculative future. The islands themselves have a story to tell - at first a remote place, inhabited by the few remaining native Americans, then discovered as a resort for the wealthy, before declining into poverty. The islands both attract and repel - for some they're a safe haven, for others a trap - but throughout their physical presence dominates - the marshes and creeks, fields of corn and potatoes, sandy dunes and oyster shell roads, the long line of tide breaking on the outer islands. Against this backdrop the lives of various generations play out, each holding the spot light for a short while as part of an ongoing family epic;  children are born, bargains are struck, a little weather magic worked, houses are built then crumble with time.
The connection between each chapter isn't immediately obvious and I found this rather a challenging read, as I tried to keep all the inter-family relationships straight in my head while jumping about in time. (There is a family tree at the beginning which probably makes this much simpler, but I couldn't read it on my kindle!) It's a bit like a jigsaw puzzle, and now knowing how the whole fits together, I think a re-read will turn up lots of things that I missed first time through and make all the pieces fall into place.

Maryom's review - 4 stars
Publisher - William Heinemann
Genre - Adult fiction,

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