Tuesday, 2 April 2013

To Preserve And To Destroy


I picked this up in the library intending to keep it for our post-Easter trip to Cornerstones. But then I started reading it, and was hooked.

It is set in North Norfolk, and Jeremy Page has described brilliantly the bleak marshes and the local voices. As I read it, I could smell the sea, and hear the accents.

The plot is a family saga full of twists and turns. The ‘official’ blurb says this…

It is May 1945 and as church bells ring out Victory in Europe over the Norfolk saltmarshes, Goose's daughter Lil is born. But as Lil enters Goose's world, her father leaves it, in a makeshift boat bound - or so the story goes - for Germany, his home.

Forty years later it is Lil's son, Pip, who begins to make sense of his family's fragmented history. Who was his grandfather, who fell from the sky into Goose's life and then disappeared as suddenly as he came? What was the truth of his mother, Lil, who lived and lost her way between the creeks and the samphire? And what does it all mean for Pip, whose heritage of flood, fireworks, fish and clouds, has left him ill-prepared for life beyond the marshes?

The author explores the complexities of family relationships, the lack of privacy in small communities, and the way stories are passed down the generations, but get embroidered in the telling, till nobody is quite sure of the truth any more. And how attempts at self-preservation can easily end with more people being hurt, and much being lost – but there are always people who love unconditionally, and remain faithful.

There is a wonderful paragraph in the final chapter

All of them living and loving and losing their way on this thin strip of saltmarsh which can never be called land and never be called sea…a legacy of madness and hurt out there among the creeks and the samphire,blowing in the wind…A thin vein of salt running through all these lives, unquenched and resolute, growing in us, connecting us with each other and the land that’s made us. Salt marked our lives, the first thing to dry on our skin, the last thing to wash away, just as able to preserve as to destroy. My family's story has been written in salt.

I did find some passages a little long, and somewhat repetitive – and I think knowledge of the area did increase my enjoyment. The descriptions of samphire served with hollandaise made my mouth water [it’s not in season till July though. But I am already planning to serve some like this in the summer]

This was his first novel, but I shall certainly check out this author’s other books [his website is here]  I’d rate Salt ****


  1. I read a really lovely, but slighty scary, book a while ago that might, I think, have been set in this landscape too. It was about a lady who sets up a bookshop in a small village. Now must go root out the title... I do like the sound of yours.

  2. http://fraiselachrymose.blogspot.co.uk/2009/10/terrifying.html

    Penelope Fitzgerald: The Bookshop!

  3. You would probably like the Ruth Galloway series by Elly Griffiths - forensic/archaelogy crime mysteries set on the Saltmarsh and around north Norfolk. I sat up until 2am finishing the last one because I needed to know how it finished; when I get the next one I am going to start it at breakfast!


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