Review - Salt

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Editorial and Opinion  |  House: Booksie Classic
Review of the debut novel by Jeremy Page - Salt

Submitted: July 27, 2009

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Submitted: July 27, 2009

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Review – Salt, by Jeremy Page
 
Jeremy Page’s debut novel Salt, tells a dream-like story full of symbolism and sensuousness. Its setting – the north Norfolk salt marshes from which narrator Pip and his ancestors evolve – is alive with signs of the future, echoes of the past and a disconcerting will of its own.
Pip narrates his story with graceful clarity through the generations, clearly evoking the turn of the decades from the 50s onwards. Gorgeously precise details (swirly 70s curtains, a single electric bar heater) balance the elusive ambiguity of Pip’s attempt to piece together his life story. His familial map begins with Hans, the mysterious German airman who drops from the sky and is pulled out of the marsh by Pip’s preternaturally eccentric Grandmother, Goose. His own mother and father, Lil and George, both succumb in different ways to the muffled and sinister grasp of the marsh, despite fleeing the landscape as naïve teenagers. Pip himself – a bizarre, mute child, given to scrawling over walls – continues the desperate affliction that dogs his family of outsiders.
The characters and their individual tragedies unfold in an oddly quiet and natural way and yet their relationships become increasingly strange and unsettling as you go on. The marsh itself seems to toy with its inhabitants, who dwell on the edge of civilisation, a constant image of backwards rural life where nature rules over mankind. Page’s slippery style leaves you desperate to grab hold of the facts before they slither away, and by the final chapters of hallucinogenic fever and emotional explosion it is impossible to form a clear idea of what has actually taken place.
 In this primal world there is a constant interplay between science and folklore, land and sea, fact and fiction, past and present. Like the reader, Pip is caught up in shivering sands of unreliability as Page’s prose sucks you down inside itself, twisting, re-arranging and re-creating itself on the way.
This unusual book has the power to make you taste, feel and hear what it describes – it seems to physically suck you in, and will certainly continue to haunt you long after you close the cover.


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