Sea of Whispers by Tim Bowler
|Sea of Whispers by Tim Bowler|
|Reviewer: Jill Murphy|
|Summary: Elegaic story of superstition, fear and prejudice and the courage required to face down these powerful forces. Beautifully-written with Bronte-esque descriptions of the wild power of the sea.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 2224||Date: January 2013|
|External links: Author's website|
Hetty has grown up on the remote island of Mora. Communication with the outside world is limited and the island relies on its boat, The Pride of Mora. But Hetty herself communicates in another way. She sees visions in the pieces of sea glass washed up on Mora's beaches. Sometimes, too, she hears whispers from the sea. Hetty's visions aren't universally popular with all the islanders but Grandy and Tam and Mackie and her other close friends at least try to understand them.
And then, one night, a storm ravages Mora. The Pride of Mora is lost, death comes to the island, and a strange old woman is washed up on the beach. Hetty can feel a connection between the woman and her voices and tries to keep her safe in the face of accusation and suspicion from others, who see the stranger as a bad omen and a curse. As the situation disintegrates, Hetty makes a risky decision...
Oh, Sea of Whispers is a strong, strong story. Stories about remote and isolated communities often are, aren't they? The people they describe are hardy, strong-willed and opinionated. They have to be. And they can also be parochial, xenophobic and suspicious. On Mora, Hetty has always butted heads with some of her fellow islanders - those who are most insular. But, when the strange old woman arrives, Hetty feels an instant bond and urge to protect her, while the others see her as a threat, and it's not just a bit of head-butting any more. Feelings run high and Hetty has to gather all her courage if she's going to make things right.
It's also a wildly romantic, Bronte-esque story. Again, stories about remote and isolated communities often are, aren't they? Mora's landscape and the sea itself have a wildness that only nature can offer - it both comforts and threatens. Tim Bowler's books often have an element of mysticism about them and here the harsh but beautiful setting surrounds Hetty's visions in the sea glass and makes them feel utterly credible. As ever, Bowler doesn't offer any concrete spiritual answers. He trusts his readers to find their own. And that, for me, is a very good thing.
Sea of Whispers has a mystery to solve, a dangerous adventure to experience vicariously, a strong and engaging central character, some fantastic dialogue, a vivid naturalistic setting, an edge of the supernatural, and relevant themes of difference and prejudice. Honestly. If there's more you want, I'll despair of you. Highly recommended.
Another wonderful, wonderful book involving a remote community living with the power of the sea is Margo Lanagan's selkie story, The Brides of Rollrock Island.
You can read more book reviews or buy Sea of Whispers by Tim Bowler at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
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