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Summerwater by Sarah Moss

Rainy, dark, nature, summer surroundings for intertwined stories that altogether make a disturbing whole. These are the stories of twelve residents of a small lakeside cottage holiday settlement that intermingle, correspond to each other and continue each other. A holiday “community” made of strangers that are uninterested in each other, unconnected and that have scarcely spoken to each other. Their connections are based on assumptions, listening in or peeking through curtains. But they do have one thing in common, and that is – hate, irritation or at least keeping an eye on Others.

The narration is delicate, gentle, detailed, filled with emotion. The narration seems as if it could be a first person stream of consciousness narration, but it is not, it is a third person narration that follows each of the characters. The inner life of every single character is lively and probable, it is impossible not to feel with each and every one of the very different characters. A fresh approach to narration that gives the whole novel an unusual feel. A feel of longing, melancholy, sadness that corresponds perfectly to the cold and rainy summer weather. Although every character in the novel is on holiday, nobody appears to wish to be there, they are confined, stuck in their misery and in their uneasiness. Nobody is happy here. (Or anywhere?)

“It’s pretty weird when you think about it, all these middle-class white people coming here to have less privacy, comfort and convenience than they do at home, how’s that a holiday?”

The characters are all strangely interconnected and will be further connected by the ending of the novel, but not only that, they are unknowingly and unconsciously connected to nature, to the Earth. And that is why there are chapters that belong to people and chapters that belong to nature. They are all here together, stuck together, but not by their own will. Just the same as people – badgers, ants, wolves, fawns are equal characters. All there together.

“The land under our feet, far under our feet, beneath our buildings, roads, pipes, subway systems, mines and even our fracking; under the valleys, the deepest lakes and the abysses of the ocean floor, is always shifting, forming, changing state. We write on the surface but the surface moves.”

People, unhappy, unsatisfied with their own petty lives, at a moment in time when they should be relaxing, be happy and content, they decide to channel their own anger towards the Others, the different ones, be they Romanian or Ukrainian or whatever else. It is always easier to be mad at someone else than ourselves.

The same way we have to take care of each other, we have to take care of nature, of what lies beneath and above us. Be conscious, be aware, be willing to see and help others. The belief that man  owns everything, his planet, the nature that surrounds him, his country. That he can decide other (lesser) people’s destinies.

As nature and our planet change so should we, we can’t stay as we were in the middle ages, in the 19th century or even the end of the 20th century, we have to evolve as humans. Be better, be more open minded, be more accepting of others. And instead, Brexit happens, people becoming worse than they once/ever were. Hatred. Fear. That is not the way to go, otherwise everything will end up in a meaningless fire. 

Why didn’t we get to hear any of the Ukraininans’ stories? Simply because they are not characters, they are sufferers. This whole insanity happens to them, they have to endure it. They have to be a part of it. Unwillingly. Their stories, their own voices, are a part of a different story altogether. A story in which they can decide something or anything on their own, a story in which they have at least some freedom and space.

Who was responsible for the fire? All of them? None in particular? Who set the fire? Becky, Lola who had something in her pocket? Becky’s father? Jack and Lola’s father? Or was it an accident. An accident of rage. Is it important at all who is to blame? Because all of them were, all of us are to blame.

What is the meaning of the leisurely engaged couple? The only ones that were positive about the foreigners just wanted to have fun? Without anything deeper in their minds. The positive are, unfortunately, just as shallow as the negative characters.

Fire is how it would and will always end, fire and catastrophe is where our own actions take us, our actions as humans (and currently – Brexit). They take us to chaos, insanity, a situation where it is impossible to tell who is to blame, who is going with the flow, who is a xenophobe, who is plainly insane. We are the ones to blame for what is going on at the moment – the destruction of people and nature.

A deep feeling of unhappiness, misery, hopelessness and anguish. Unfortunately, Sarah Moss sees nothing well for us in the future, for us as humans and for our planet. If there is to be a future at all, we should start changing right now. If it’s not too late already…

Thank you Netgalley for sending this over for honest review.

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