Today, it’s a very exciting blog post as I’m talking about the brilliant Saltwater by Jessica Andrews. I think this is one of my top books of the year…
Saltwater by Jessica Andrews is a novel that I have been wanting to read for AGES. There’s been a lot of love for it over social media and I was so excited for it to be published to pick up a copy. I picked it up and finished it in three days – it’s that good. What’s it about? Here’s the blurb:
When Lucy wins a place at university, she thinks London will unlock her future. It is a city alive with pop up bars, cool girls and neon lights illuminating the Thames at night. At least this is what Lucy expects, having grown up seemingly a world away in working-class Sunderland, amid legendary family stories of Irish immigrants and boarding houses, now-defunct ice rinks and an engagement ring at a fish market.
Yet Lucy’s transition to a new life is more overwhelming than she ever expected. As she works long shifts to make ends meet and navigates chaotic parties from East London warehouses to South Kensington mansions, she still feels like an outsider among her fellow students. When things come to a head at her graduation, Lucy takes off for Ireland, seeking solace in her late grandfather’s cottage and the wild landscape that surrounds it, wondering if she can piece together who she really is.
Lyrical and boundary-breaking, Saltwater explores the complexities of mother-daughter relationships, the challenges of shifting class identity and the way that the strongest feelings of love can be the hardest to define.
I really, really, really, really loved this book. I think it’s just gorgeous and I’ve not connected with a book like this in a long time. Andrews is a beautiful writer and this runs throughout the entire novel. Her writing is lyrical, profound, deeply moving and emotional and nostalgic, too. When reading, I couldn’t help but get transported and reminisce about my own childhood and growing up and that’s the strength of Andrews’ writing, I think. The novel is split in four parts and there’s no chapters, more like segments, soundbites, even. I love this narrative style and it really did suit this book and the theme of the novel. The writing is so incredible that I couldn’t help folding page after page.
It felt good to be around people who didn’t give a fuck, who had never heard of Judith Butler and were out just for a good time.
There are a lot of themes at play in this novel. From social class and the changing of class identity, to family, to growing up, to nature and the landscape, language and education, the relationship between mother and daughter that’s complex and layered, love, identity and desire, but also learning how to be free. The theme of family and the complexity of the mother/daughter relationship is the true core of this novel and I think Andrews wrote that beautifully and effectively too. I really enjoyed the theme of social class and Lucy’s working class roots and how that changes when she goes to university. Her family tell her that she is their ‘only hope’. I thought that was interesting and again, reminded me about my own experiences.
I would like to have something to believe in, but it is difficult. Everything my generation was promised got blown away like clouds of smoke curling from the ends of cigarettes in the mouths of bankers and politicians. It is hard not to be cynical and critical of everything, and yet perhaps there is an opening, too. When the present begins to fracture, there is room for the future to be written.
I truly can’t love this book enough. The writing is delicate, lyrical and incredibly effective. This is something that carves a way for new and different stories to be heard and listened. Andrews hasn’t created a novel in the traditional sense; she has crafted her own path and accomplishes it with style. I really think this is one of my favourites of the year, so far. I haven’t connected with a book like this in a very long time and I know that it’s not going to let me go anytime soon, either. I can’t wait to see what Jessica Andrews writes next and I hope this novel does well with readers. If you’re a fan of Anna Burns, Sally Rooney or Sophie Mackintosh, I think you would love this.
I think perhaps that is the allure. London pushes you further and further to the edges and when you feel like you are about to fall it lets you know, just for a moment, that you have found a place where you belong.
Have you read Saltwater? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!