Loving as I do the seaside, and having just returned from Cornwall, I was excited by the arrival of another Orange longlisted title, The seas, by Samantha Hunt. And it didn't disappoint.
The 19 year old narrator is convinced that she is a mermaid, and believes that her father who drowned 11 years earlier is still alive somewhere in the sea. Throughout the novel she is repeatedly drawn to water, and fish, constantly called by the ocean in a small, depressed town that has very little else to offer apart from chambermaiding work and shifts in a sardine canning factory. She is in love with a sailor, Jude, a man nearly twice her age who has returned from Iraq and is embittered by his experiences.
There are other intriguing characters in this tale too - the narrator's grandfather is a typesetter, working on an enormous dictionary that will be greater than the Oxford English Dictionary should it ever be completed. Her mother is still waiting for her husband to return.
I liked that fact that this was somehow lighter in tone and pace and prose than some of the longlisted titles which made it eminently readable. Like A visit from the Goon Squad, there were some gimicks with the construction of the text - nearly blank pages, weird and wonderful typesetting, but this all fitted in entirely with a slightly off-centre and quirky tale tale. But at the same time it was a little akin to a stream of consciousness and difficult to tell quite where it was all going, so although I liked it, it somehow didn't quite hang together in the end for me. I'd still recommend it warmly though as something very different to read.
This is actually Hunt's debut novel, although her second was longlisted for the Orange Prize in 2009 - it fits the criteria because it was first published in the UK in July last year.
Many thanks to Sam, on behalf of Corsair, who sent me this title to read.
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