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The Tidal Zone is quite a difficult title to write about because no other novelist at present is writing in this unique way to produce such a (almost literally) stunning impact on the listener. It richly deserves its 5+ stars.
Sarah Moss the author is an academic and The Tidal Zone is a highly sophisticated and multi-layered portrait of both a family and British culture, packed tightly with challenging and stimulating ideas and analysis. But don't be put off if this sounds a bit heavy - it is also utterly and beguilingly ordinary, presenting with stunning reality a family with all the stresses and strains of just about every family we know.
Adam looks after 15 year-old Mimi and 8 year-old Rose at home, putting his own academic work on hold as his GP wife Emma earns the money, returning home late each day drained by working for a struggling NHS, too exhausted to eat. All's well if stressful in a different way for Adam juggling household chores, children's needs, a preoccupied wife and his own attempts to keep up some vestige of academic research - until the call from school that Mimi has stopped breathing and has been rushed to hospital where she stays for the next fortnight before being returned home with the life-saving Epipen she must always carry with her in case the same happens again.
The power of the writing is in the portrayal of the effect of this shattering experience on each member of the family, the strain on the tenuous 'cobweb' which was holding Adam and Emma together even before the shock, and the painful lessons Adam has to learn in allowing Mimi to live again without strangling her with his overwhelming anxiety. All this is described against the everyday backdrop of Adam emptying the dishwasher, buying Rose's new school shoes, making the packed lunches and doing the thousand other domestic tasks as his world seems to have crumbled around him.
It's also about a great deal more than this - the NHS comes in for a great deal of beautifully made swingeing swipes - the night nurses in Mimi's High Dependency unit are paid less per hour than was paid to Father Christmas's elves in a superstore is just one example. University education with sultry students and Faculty meetings reduced to media speak is another target. These themes which are super-articulate - and when they come from Mimi (who reads The New Internationalist) arguing against doing her homework because it's 'a technique for social control' - they can all get too much, too clever.
But the other themes are wonderful and deftly interwoven, such as Adam's work on the rebuilding of Canterbury Cathedral which contributes to the novel's final resolution where life is rebuilt and does go on. And there's the tidal imagery and the real coastal tides, in which Adam's mother drowned when he was young, and where Mimi and Rose look for sea anemones and starfish at the end; tides that ebb and flow like Mimi's breathing in and out which her parents must now always reassure themselves is happening.
7 of 7 people found this review helpful
I haven't read anything by Sarah Moss before - but I will certainly be seeking out her other novels now that I have read this one. This book is beautifully written, the story never loses pace or interest, and we are asked to consider the journey the human body makes from the moment of conception to that of death - or in this case, near death.
This is the story of a fairly ordinary family, Dad stays home and looks after 15 year old Miriam and her younger sister Rose while their mum works as a GP. Their daily life is described in minute but never boring detail, and we learn about the relationships that exist between these four likeable people. They are very normal and happy, intelligent and loving. Then one day Miriam collapses at school due to respiratory and then cardiac arrest needing CPR. None of the doctors are able to say why this incident has happened or whether it might recur and then there's the possibility that Rose might be affected too.
The story is compelling, we really feel for this family as the rug is pulled out from under their happy life and it seems as though they will never feel safe again. There is no conventional happy ending, rather the characters learn to live with their new situation as the unusual and frightening starts to become normal for them.
I can't recommend this book highly enough.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful