To make up for the dearth of blog posts this year, I’m returning to my twelve days of Christmas book recommendations: a daily blog throughout the rest of December in which I share with you the twelve best books I read during 2017, counting down to the best of them all on Christmas Eve.
As always, these aren’t all books published this year but they are all books that I would heartily recommend you go out and buy or borrow. (That was a sneaky prompt to use your local library.)
Let’s see what my third favourite book was in 2017…
The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss
At the beginning of Sarah Moss’s The Tidal Zone, fifteen year old Miriam’s heart stops and she collapses on the school playing field. She survives but doctors cannot fully explain why it happened and can’t promise it won’t happen again. She returns home to the care of her father Adam, a stay at home dad and academic; her mum Emma, a GP; and her younger sister Rose but all four of them are changed by the event. Adam creeps into Miriam’s bedroom at night to check she is breathing. Just how else do you live alongside the fact of a loved one’s mortality?
Everything that happens in this novel happens in the first few pages; the book is not really about Miriam’s cardiac arrest but about the aftermath, and a very domestic aftermath at that. I accidentally saw Moss talk about this book twice this year – once at a work conference and once at the Cheltenham Literature Festival; she was brilliant both times – and at one of those events, she spoke of the importance of the ‘domestic novel’. After all, it’s a universal experience. And there is something quite miraculous about the way in which Moss writes about the everyday; she elevates it somehow, makes it a subject you want to read about.
In the midst of this domestic aftermath, Moss weaves two subplots: firstly, the story of Adam’s parents, their unorthodox lifestyle and Adam’s mother’s death, which may hold a clue to Miriam’s condition. Secondly, Adam is writing an academic book on the post-war reconstruction of Coventry Cathedral and the snippets of this story are woven through the main story, picking up the theme of rebuilding in the aftermath of disaster, new life emerging amidst the ruins of the old.
I became a big Sarah Moss fan with this novel: she writes, so fluently and intelligently, extremely readable, relevant and moving books. The Tidal Zone is in my top three for good reason.
P.S. The image on that cover is *not a photograph*…