A family saga that explores the relationship between people and the landscape in which they live, Jeremy Page's atmospheric and lyrical debut novel is revelatory in its use of language and is the work of a significant new writer. Salt tells of a German airman who falls from the sky in 1945 and lands in the middle of a salt marsh in England. Goose, a local woman, digs him up and brings him home. After staying for just nine months, he vanishes in a makeshift boat, leaving Goose behind with a newborn daughter, Lil. Taught to read the clouds by her mother, Lil's childhood is curious and strange, but when she becomes the object of two brothers' desire, her life takes a tragic turn. Fifteen years later, it is Lil's son, Pip, who attempts to make sense of his family's intriguing history. Beguiled by the lovely Elsie who lives nearby, Pip grows up in the marsh like generations before him--but will their unfortunate past repeat itself?.
This remarkable first novel by British script editor Page elevates a tragic family history to the level of myth. In the dying months of the Second World War Goose, a strange, isolated woman who reads omens in the clouds and lives alone in a cottage on the salt marshes of Norfolk, England, finds a German soldier partially buried in the marsh mud. She takes him in, he gets her pregnant and then he flees (on a makeshift boat featuring a quilt for a sail) while she's in labor. Daughter Lil, who grows up wild and strange, becomes the love interest of two brothers (named Shrimp and Kipper) and leaves the marshes in shame at age 16. The story is told through the eyes of Pip, Lil's son, whose inability (or unwillingness) to speak draws Lil and husband George back to the marshes and to Goose. The unforgiving landscape becomes one of the book's main characters; it's a ruthless, powerful force that claims Pip's family members one at a time. But it is Pip's infatuation with Elsie, an odd girl a few years his senior, that will have the direst consequences of all. Page has reinvented the fairy tale with this disturbing and magical saga. (July)
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August 26, 2008
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