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Thursday, 20 August 2020

Summerwater by Sarah Moss



At the end of a long single track road sits a holiday park, a small group of wooden chalets. With a lochside location surrounded by mountains it sounds like the perfect place to rest and relax, to get back in touch with nature and the simpler things in life, far away from normal everyday life. But the Scottish weather is proving a disappointment. The rain is constant. Getting out and about seems unappealing. There's little for the families on holiday at the park to do but stay indoors, and maybe watch the other holidaymakers. 
A wife tries to outrun her problems, children are forced outside to play by the water, teenagers would rather be anywhere else. A young couple think of what their future holds: an older one reminisce about the past. One family, though, is marked out as 'different'. They play music and party late at night. They don't have the proper 'serious' clothing and footwear. Maybe you aren't allowed to have fun while the rain continues to pour and ruin everyone else's holiday?

Over the course of a day, tempers start to unravel, tension rises, and, whether it's from children spotting another child who's easy to bully, or from the solitary guy camping nearby, there's a feeling of trouble brewing.

Sarah Moss has perfectly captured that claustrophobic mood of sitting hunkered inside out of the rain, day after day, in an area where all the attractions - walking, swimming, cycling - are outdoors, of longing to go out but being soaked after a few minutes, while inside wet clothes steam but never dry out, and the windows fog up from condensation. 
Following first one person, then another, we see the day unfold from different perspectives, and with each of them that uneasy tension builds. By close observation and dipping into their thoughts, at the end of the day/novel, these feel like people you know intimately, possibly better then their close families do. There's a certain similarity to Jon McGregor's If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things, with the emphasis being on people going about a fairly ordinary day, doing little of importance, while unknown to them tragedy is about to strike. 
And the ending ... well, that's one that will resonate for quite a while. DO NOT be tempted to skip ahead and see what happens. On a second or third reading you'll know how things work out; just once let the full shock hit you.


Maryom's review - 5 stars
Publisher - Picador
Genre - adult, literary, 

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