Sunday, May 4, 2008

Book Review: Salt by Jeremy Page

Salt is a rather strange title for a strange novel. Set on the saltmarshes of Norfolk and the fens of Lincolnshire this is a wistful and wandering recollection of a boy's story, starting from the meeting of his grandparents and describing the litany of miseries of his childhood. It is rather difficult to say what this novel is about as it is certainly not plot-driven, but it seems to attempt to deal with the slight madness that living in such isolated places can bring upon people and as such is quite depressing. Quite overdescriptive and reliant on "wordbites" to set the tone of the Norfolk landscape, I would imagine that most of this book would be lost on anyone not familiar with the location.

Through much of the book the author attempts to paint a landscape using words and this is to the detriment of the story. This is a shame as at times the reader suddenly discovers a fairly interesting story, with some unusual characters, but every time it seems like something profound will come, the author gets wrapped up in painting his picture of words -"terns call, wind blows, I see the samphire tremble", which becomes quite boring and repetitive.

Rather than dealing with madness or landscapes this novel, to me, was more about neglect - neglect of children, neglect of women, neglect of oneself and finally, by the author, neglect of any ending worthy of the reader's efforts; throughout the book there was just enough intrigue for it to have been saved by an excellent ending, but once again the author lapses into a dreamlike prose which finishes nowhere.

Salt is a book I acquired from my mother as she lost interest in it, and this tells you a lot about its quality. Readers who are in love with the Norfolk landscape and like wordiness may love this book equally, but for those who don't know the area or like a good story, this is a book to avoid.

Score: 3/10

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