Article published on June 6, 2016.
Good things come in small packages they say and the short new novel from Man Booker-shortlisted Alison Moore (for The Lighthouse) more than fulfils this claim.
Bonnie Falls is not quite thirty years old and adrift in life. Instructed by her parents to leave home she finds herself renting a ground floor flat in the town she’s grown up in. With no real friends to speak of she finds herself independent at last yet more isolated than ever with only a strange and vivid imagination for company.
When her landlady Sylvia takes an unexpected interest in her life and the story she is writing Bonnie is at first startled by the invasion but curiously doesn’t reject it, her loneliness perhaps making her vulnerable. With a growing sense of unease the reader is left to wonder where this odd relationship will lead as the pair plan a trip to the seaside to help Bonnie finish her story.
There is a dreamlike quality to this novel which, interspersed with parts of the story that Bonnie is struggling to write (and which is a kind of version of her own life, as Sylvia would have it), lends a strange air of unreality to the whole. It is difficult to pinpoint where one ends and the other begins and the two begin to merge together in your mind, mirroring events in the book.
I immediately wanted to re-read it when I’d finished and it is certainly short enough to return to time and time again. Knowing how it ends would make a second time around a quite different reading experience I imagine but this would only enhance the sense of Bonnie’s lack of direction with the understanding of where it might lead her.
Death and the Seaside is a psychologically astute novel of power, control and influence which will make you wonder how real your memories are and where your fears come from. Blending layers of memory and imagination there are signposts to the end everywhere, if you only know where to look. Clever and really quite disturbing.
– Mel Mitchell
Many thanks to Salt for the advance reading copy – it is a particular thrill to have one from a favourite author.
Alison Moore reveals her own influences in terms of books in My Five Favourites in the Summer 2016 issue of nb magazine, available early July.
Death and the Seaside by Alison Moore, published on 1 August, 2016 by Salt Publishing, in paperback at £8.99