Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume
|Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume|
|Category: Literary Fiction|
|Reviewer: Ani Johnson|
|Summary: An award winning, heart-breakingly poignant tale of a lifetime of loneliness in the form of superbly written poetic prose. One of my favourite books of the year!|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 216||Date: February 2015|
|Publisher: Tramp Press|
|External links: Author's website|
Shortlisted: Costa First Novel Award 2015
Winner: Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize 2015
Every Tuesday he goes into town. This particular Tuesday he sees an advert for a rescue dog that's been badly treated by its previous owner. Somewhere the ad strikes a resonance and he adopts the dog, calling it Oneeye (yes, one word, just like that). Gradually over shared meals a friendship grows and develops over the seasons as the spill of spring turns to summer's simmer, through the falter of autumn and on to withering winter.
This novel has won Sara Baume accolades from literary greats such as Joseph O'Connor. It has also won the Davy Byrnes award and I'm sure there's more to come for a sublimely beautiful story about a man and his dog – definitely one of my favourite books of the year.
Told almost as a man-to-dog monologue we eavesdrop on our new dog-owner's life story and get the distinct impression that Oneeye is the first person to have heard it. Our narrator sounds perfectly at ease and content to begin with. Then we listen more closely realising that friendship, for various reasons, has been absent from his experience. Slowly we hear the reasons and our hearts melt on his behalf as his past is dripped to us via little adeptly-left hints and clues.
His furniture is past dilapidated and make-do-mended and yet he seems reluctant to replace it for reasons other than affordability. He has a deep seated fear of children that he also gradually reveals. As for the way in which he describes his 10th birthday party... I won't give it away, but he first mentions it with six words that knocked me sideways. Just those six words are enough to evoke a world of pain and loss and yet he's so matter of fact about it all; such pain is something he's become accustomed to.
In the absence of friends and a social life, our dog-owner has become one with nature, the birds and animals he encounters doubling as companions. This leads to some enchanting descriptions of the coast and countryside around his home. It also means he observes the surrounding humans as an outsider – an almost non-human – would, creating some interesting observations as he takes us through his biography and his current world.
It's not a long novel, in fact I read it in one sitting but I respectfully suggest you spread it over more time than that – the language deserves it. Sara not only finds the right words but imbues them with subtle nuances and multi-meanings that deserve to be mulled over. For instance towards the end our man describes the current world's addiction to technological contact in a way that makes us question who in the end is living in the emptiest universe. Indeed, by the last page we too are surrounded with a miasma of melancholy but, if connected with the book, ours is only temporary and the beauty we've encountered on the way makes it more than worth it.
(Thank you so much Tramp Press for providing us with a copy for review.)
Further Reading: If this appeals and you enjoy a novel that combines a good story with lyricism, we just as heartily recommend Ransom by David Malouf. If you would like to read some of the great stories coming out of Ireland at the moment, look no further than the aforementioned Joseph O'Connor and either Ghost Light or the short stories of Where Have you Been.
You can read more book reviews or buy Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.