Friday, September 07, 2007

'The River' by Tricia Wastvedt

Fiction, 2004
Penguin paperback, 340 p.
Longlisted for the Orange Prize, 2005
When two children drown (Not a spoiler- this is the opening scene) on an idyllic summer afternoon in 1958, the community of Cameldip is left haunted by the tragic loss. And parents Isabel and Robert suffer a grief that is as devastating as it is unrelenting.
Thirty years later, Anna arrives in Cameldip, fleeing city life and her own disappointments. She does not tell anyone that she is pregnant. Anna goes to live with Isabel and unwittingly begins to unravel ties of guilt and betrayal held close for many years. When the baby arrives, powerful feelings of loss and heartbreak begin to surface and Anna is forced to ask whether Isabel’s feelings towards the baby are entirely benign.
At the beginning I had to flip back a few times to remind myself of who was who but once I was familiar with all the characters I really enjoyed how the story slowly unravelled and the different strands came together. I think Wastvedt did a good job at setting the atmosphere. Throughout I couldn’t shake the eerie feeling that something bad might happen at any time yet I was never quite expecting the things that did happen. I think the quote from The Times on the back sums it up nicely: ‘Full of brooding sadness, right up to the unexpected horror of the ending’. For a debut novel I think she’s done well and I look forward to her next book.

My Rating: 3.5/5
(#38 for 2007)

Interview with the author HERE.
Discussion of the book begins today at Reading Matters.


  1. My curiosity is piqued, Nat...there is great potential for Isabel to be a highly fascinating character, I definitely would like to know more about her and the story. Also, it does sound like a great pick for a group discussion, I'll go take a peek at Reading Matters.

  2. Lotus,
    It was an interesting story, or rather the interweaving of several stories. It was interesting to see how Isabel's grief ended up affecting the entire community.
    There will probably be spoilers at the discussion so take care.

  3. Isabel was one of the characters that couldn't really convince me. Certainly, she was inteded to be different as the story went on - in a way it was interesting to see her change gradually as she was living with Anna and Mat - but there were some inconsequences in her character that I made me feel uneasy about the book.

  4. umpteen,
    Thanks for stopping by! I agree with you about Isabel. The more time that passes since I finished reading it, the less convinced I am by Isabel's character. Plus the ending feels purely convenient. Oh well. Still a good effort.


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