Silver & Salt by Elanor Dymott

Review published on November 13, 2017.

This is the story of Max, a famous photographer moving among the rich and beautiful, his wife, Sophie, an opera singer, and their two daughters, Vinny and Ruthie. They live in London, a country house, Pennerton, and a villa in Greece – surely a happy uncomplicated story of family life – not so.

The novel starts in the 1960s and has everything – love, romance, happiness, jealousy, deep depression, madness, ghost-like hallucinations, threats of suicide, suggestions of incest and rape, success, failure and the consequences of betrayal. It meanders between the past and present for roughly 30 years with references to secrets and jealousies from long ago, but not always explained. I thought the characters were very well written but most were unappealing, except for Sophie, the mother, who didn’t realise she was expected to give up her career as an opera singer completely to be a full-time mother to her two girls, while her famous, handsome husband lived as a single available man having many affairs.

The description of their lives in Greece was stunning with beautiful beaches and lots of swimming, birds, flowers, food, the lot – but Max was very rarely there with them.

I found the middle of the book quite dense with lots of photographic terms and details. (Incidentally, in terms of the title Silver & Salt combined make liquid light, and under extreme conditions, light can also act like a liquid and actually flow around objects.) The end of the book galloped along at the rate of knots and most ends were tied up neatly.

For stories about families and their differences, I do feel you can’t beat the Irish Author, the late William Trevor (d. 2016) who excelled in his short stories such as “The Wedding in the Garden”. Similarly, the English author, the late Margaret Forster (d. 2016) portrayed family life so well in many of her books such as Private Papers.

The blurb on the cover of this novel by Jon Snow was “Unforgettable and an irresistible read” – not so for me.

I don’t feel there would be a lot for a group to discuss other than relations between sisters, and that can rapidly turn into “Let me tell you about my sister – you won’t believe……”Enough said!

Deirdre Spendlove 3/3

Silver & Salt by Elanor Dymott
Jonathan Cape 9780224094054 hbk Apr 2017

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