The cover drew me in first. The colour is at the perfect point between blue and grey and the drawing is lovely. Who is the man and what is he looking down at?
I hadn’t read anything by Robert Erdic before, but I was aware that he was a respected author, and so I picked up the book to find out a little more, The premise was intriguing, and so home it came.
In 1847, after the death of his fianceé, Charles Weightman is sent to Yorkshire to supervise the flooding of a valley.
It’s an element of history that I don’t recall finding in a novel before. Springs and wells that have supplied communities with water cannot cope with new demands and population growth, and so valleys are turned into reservoirs.
He expected to find unpopulated countryside, but instead he finds homes still occupied and people who are reluctantly having to leave the only homes they have ever known. And so, of course, Charles meets with suspicion, resentment and downright hostility.
Mary Latimer is a widow. She moved back to her home in the valley so that she could bring her sister home from the asylum, but mow she faces the prospect of losing her home and being forced to send her sister back to the asylum.
There is a mutual recognition between Mary and Charles. acknowlege each other as people who have borne losses, who are isolated, who are trying to do the right thing in difficult situations.
There is no relationship – this isn’t that sort of book – just two lives being swept away as the tide rises.
A great deal is unsaid, and many questions go unanswered, while the rising tide dominates everything. In unskilled hands that might be a problem, but here it somehow works. Indeed, it feels right.
The story is, inevitably, serious and, of course, there can be no happy ending. But it is both moving and gripping as it unravels in perfect, sparse prose, and all of the elements work together beautifully.
Definitely a book that will stay with me, and an author to investigate further,