‘The Tidal Zone’ by Sarah Moss

From the blurb:

Adam is a stay-at-home day who is writing a history of the bombing and rebuilding of Coventry Cathedral.  He is a good man and he is happy.  But one day, he receives a call from his daughter’s school to inform him that, for no apparent reason, fifteen-year-old Miriam has collapsed and stopped breathing.  In that moment, his world fractures.  The story of his life and the lives of his family are rewritten and retold around this shocking central event: a body that has inexplicably failed.

In this exceptionally courageous and unflinching novel of contemporary life Sarah Moss explores parental love, overwhelming fear, illness and recovery.  It is about clever teenagers and the challenges of marriage.  It is about the NHS, academia, sex and gender in the twenty-first century, the balancing of work and family life, the politics of packing lunches and loading dishwashers.  This sad but funny and ultimately hopeful book confirms Sarah Moss as a unique voice in modern fiction a writer of luminous intelligence.

Published by Granta Books – 20th April 2017

Ever since I started watching Booktube, Sarah Moss has always been a literary fiction writer that comes highly praised, so I’ve always been interested in reading one of her books.  I bought this book last year on a trip to London and I remember the woman at the till telling me how much I would love it. And the premise did sound intriguing… A girl collapses at school and her family, especially her dad, rally round to help her on the road to recovery.

And I have to say that the book does deal with some really interesting and relevant themes.  For example, stay at home dads.  It’s becoming more and more popular for men to be the homemakers in the modern world where perhaps their wives/partners are the ones that earn more money.  And the book dives into some of the issues that are still surrounding this relatively-new family setup.  Issues around trust, gender and power dynamics.

It also does a great job of exploring what it is to be a parent, especially of a child who is ill.  I’m not a parent, but I really got a sense of the constant worry and paranoia that accompanies the title of ‘mum’ or ‘dad’.  The what ifs, the thousands of dangerous scenarios that run through your head on a daily basis.  All whilst trying to let your children have the space to grow and trying not to stifle that.

Moss also explores the idea that we all are on a journey, and that each decision we make, and each decision our ancestors made, affects our future path.  Adam, our main character and the narrator, is researching the history and design of the new Coventry cathedral after the destruction of the old cathedral during the Blitz.  And we dive into Adam’s father’s past as he moves away from his parents and lives a very different sort of lifestyle.  Both of these plot lines help to serve Moss’ purpose in demonstrating the power of fate and our decisions.

It is, no doubt, a very clever book with lots of intricacies and many things you are left to ponder.  It was, for me, far too slow at times.  And I was often frustrated by the bits where Adam was researching the cathedral – I found some of the history included dull and a little meaningless.

I am not going to end this review by saying I won’t ever pick up another Sarah Moss novel, or indeed a work of her non-fiction.  I would like to try something else of hers, especially as she writes in a number of different genres, and I believe, styles.  My library has a number of her titles available, so that’s where I’ll be looking next.  Any recommendations would be most apppreciated.

If my review intrigued you and you want to pick up a copy of this book for yourself, you can do so here.  If you use my link I’ll receive a small commission – thank you in advance if you do!

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