We follow various people who are residing in a holiday park in the Trossachs.
Justine – middle-aged, married and the mother of two young sons. Justine and her family have rented a cabin for two weeks away from their daily routine in Northern England. She is addicted to running and she leaves the cabin every morning before her family rises to run 12K around the loch before she returns home to make breakfast for her family. As she runs we follow her myriad thoughts and disjointed ruminations about her life.
Meanwhile, her husband introspectively reflects on what it means to be middle-aged.
David, a retired doctor and his wife Mary own their cabin and have been coming for years. They take a day trip from the cabin and travel by ferry across the loch to go to a cafe. Elderly now and increasingly infirm, they ruminate on aging, and lament on how things ‘used to be‘. Change and increasing age can be bitter pills to swallow.
Milly and Josh, a young engaged couple are staying at the cottage of his parents. They are relishing their privacy and making love. We follow the young woman’s train of thought as she fantasizes about old film stars, warmth, and a bacon sandwich.
A chronically depressed, frazzled mother sends her two young children out to play in the rain so that she can get a bit of peace. We follow the daughter’s thoughts as she accompanies her young brother to the loch. There we learn that children can indeed be cruel…
Alex, sixteen and disgruntled that he had to accompany his family on holiday, escapes his parents, sister, and the confines of the cabin and takes the red kayak out on the loch. While alone, his musings turn to running away from his family and emigrating to another country, his future education, and his all abiding wish for privacy.
Becky, Alex’s sister is turning to suicidal thoughts cooped up with her family, sharing a room with her brother in the tiny cabin, and gasp… no internet!
A little girl named Izzie, her baby brother Patrick, their ever patient mother, Claire and their father, Jon. We are privy to Claire’s thoughts as she reflects upon her life and how she got to this day – in the rain – in a cabin with her family. Is she happy? Wouldn’t she just love some time to herself? What will her life be like when her children grow up? How she really cherishes this time when the kids are small.
Oh, and their neighbours in the cabin next door are partying all hours keeping all of them, especially baby Patrick awake…The ‘stream of consciousness‘ writing style might not be to everyone’s taste, but it works well here. You get inside the various character’s minds, not observing, but seeing their ‘secret selves’ – making the events come to life. The claustrophobic, ceaseless rain and wet – tarnishing what should be a welcome vacation break from their ordinary lives.
Sunshine would have much improved this cabin park in the Trossachs – though to be honest it would still be rather faded and the worse for wear. But these unfortunate souls chose the worse two weeks for their holidays. Unrelenting rain. So much rain, drizzle, and dampness that I felt quite soggy after reading this captivating little book and should really check myself for mildew.
The writing was incredible. “The sky turned a yellowish shade of grey, the colour of bandages, or thickened skin old old white feet. Rain simmers in puddles. Trees drip. Grass lies low, some of it beginning to drown in pooling water…”
Because the narrative was divided in the manner it was, it reads almost like a collection of linked short stories. Linked in that the various residents of the holiday park all come together in the end in what was, for me, an ending that was both memorable and chilling.
Sarah Moss has granted us a glimpse into the lives and thoughts of various different people here. They are all very genuine and uncompromisingly ‘real’. Their stories portray the author’s keen understanding of human nature. Literary fiction that engenders empathy in the reader is to be recommended. Well done!
This review was written voluntarily and my rating was in no way influenced by the fact that I received a complimentary digital copy of this novel from Picador (an imprint of Pan MacMillan) via NetGalley.
Publication date: August 20, 2020 Publisher: Picador/Pan MacMillan
ISBN: 9781529035438 ASIN: B07RM6R4WL 160 pages
Sarah Moss is the author of seven novels and a memoir of her year living in Iceland, Names for the Sea, shortlisted for the RSL Ondaatje Prize. Her novels are Cold Earth, Night Waking, Bodies of Light (shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize), Signs for Lost Children (shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize), The Tidal Zone (shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize) and Ghost Wall, which was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2019.
Sarah was born in Glasgow and grew up in the north of England. After moving between Oxford, Canterbury, Reykjavik and West Cornwall, she now lives in the Midlands and is Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Warwick.