Like the ocean, this novel lulled me into it's rhythms, waves of hazy, palpable sadness, set adrift by loss and somehow anchored to that loss at the same time. Sea Change by Jeremy Page, Blogher's Book Club selection for November, is a gorgeously sad novel. It is filled with exquisite writing, a devastating story at its core, and the intensely painful recollections, observations and memories of a man working to deal with the inescapable loss of his family.
The main character, Guy, is living alone on a houseboat off the coast of England. He teaches piano lessons but mostly he is alone. Deeply alone. Except when he is writing in his "diary." Every night Guy writes the story of his family and creates a fictional future for himself, and his absent wife and daughter. He keeps his family intact but only in his imagination. This fiction is his anchor, it gives him something to live for everyday but it also paralyzes him and prevents him from moving on with his own life. He is obsessed with creating a future for himself, his wife and his daughter that is impossible. As the book cuts back and forth between the fictional family Guy has fabricated and Guy's own daily life, we are immersed in his internal monologue. And it's this internal struggle to just keep moving everyday that is so sorrowful. Guy can't connect with other people. Only the people in his fictional world. Guy's grief, his ever present suffocating grief, makes the story monotonous at times but intentionally so. The story has that wearisome feel of being on the water too long weighed down by the dull aching monotony of Guy's loss. You could feel it all through the book, but it was always a pleasure to read simply because the writing is so controlled, tight and lovely. I was swept up in the tragedy. I was swept off onto Guy's house boat, drifting through the seas and estuaries, bumping up against other people but never really joining them, always aloof, always alone. This novel is an achingly observant tale of one man's grief and the power of writing to, as Guy says, "reclaim the things you have lost." The power of the imagination to protect and explore, and the power of fiction to create a world better than the world we might be living in right now. A place where the dead are still alive, and while it may not be perfect, families are still whole.
(I was compensated for my review of this novel, but all opinions expressed were, as usual, my own.)