A bubbling call that might have come from underwater

I know I have been light on the reviews this past month or two. That pesky heatwave kept me in a mild lupus flare and that means difficulty concentrating, which in turns means that whatever I am reading suffers. Books that have slow-moving plots are harder to follow, and even when I do still thoroughly enjoy a book, I find it hard to formulate my response. But in my up moments I cobbled together a brief book review.

After Me Comes the Flood
by Sarah Perry

I had been looking forward to this novel, and reading a story set during a heatwave while experiencing an actual heatwave seemed like an excellent idea to me. Unfortunately, this is a fairly slow, quiet book, so my lupus flare meant I struggled a bit with it.

It’s also an odd book. John Cole, tired of London mid-heatwave, decides to go and visit his brother in the countryside. But en route his car breaks down and, looking for a phone to call for help, he knocks on the door of a house in the woods. A case of mistaken identity leads him to stay there, wearing another man’s clothes and getting to know the house’s motley crew of occupants.

“He came down from the raised shingle track onto a broad stretch of cracked mud on which white salt stains glittered. Above him the sky was bright and the small hard sun pricked at his scalp. From away to his left, deep in a channel he couldn’t see, a curlew began to sing with a bubbling call that might have come from underwater…The sun raged at him – he felt it burning through the thin weave of his shirt and sending the blood to his head, where it beat implacably behind his eyes.”

The unlikely set-up gives the rest of the story a fairytale air, even though nothing fantastical happens. But it’s certainly not the only oddity. At the rear of the property there is a reservoir created by building a dam and flooding a valley. Under the reservoir is a village, with buildings and shop signs still visible under the water. It’s a creepy idea.

John narrates alternate chapters but he is one of the most unreliable narrators I have come across. He is not the only unreliable one in the house. Its occupants lie, they drop hints about a history of mental ill health and they seem far too ready to make John one of them. It’s beautifully written and relentlessly cryptic.

Published 2014 by Serpent’s Tail.

Source: Christmas present from my sister.

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