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Beside the Sea Paperback – 13 Jan 2010

30 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 121 pages
  • Publisher: Peirene Press Ltd (13 Jan. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0956284027
  • ISBN-13: 978-0956284020
  • Product Dimensions: 12.3 x 1 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 298,411 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"This story tears your heart apart ... Véronique Olmi, thank you for this marvelous novel." --Journal du Dimanche

"A short novel full of wisdom and sadness. If you forget this book, you haven't read it."
--Süddeutsche Zeitung

"The most intense female narrative I've come across
in years. A powerful tale of human frailty, like
Beckett's Not I, it unlocks you from the inside."

--Lisa Dwan, actress

This is a mesmerising portrait ... it should be read. --Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian

With the skill of a thriller writer, the mother-narrator propels you forward and as, the awful climax approaches, compels you to profoundly question your own life and relationships.
--Rosie Goldsmith, BBC

"This short novel has the trajectory of a classic tragedy with its taut time-span and sense of inevitability ... The closing pages are heart-stopping and heartbreaking, yet one finishes this sad tale not depressed but uplifted by its ability to enlarge the reader's sympathies."
--Chris Schuler, The Independent

"prose ... filled with sad poetic sense and blunt, bleak realities, compellingly conveyed in Hunter's colloquial English. "
-- TLS

From the Publisher

Why Peirene chose to publish this book:
"This is the most impressive novel about the mother and child relationship I have read. Véronique Olmi handles an aspect of motherhood that we all too often deny. She depicts a woman's fear of releasing her children into the world. The simple first person narrative achieves an extraordinary level of poetry and inner truth." Meike Ziervogel (publisher)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Simon Savidge Reads on 4 April 2010
Format: Paperback
I cant start my bookish thoughts on `Beside the Sea' without stating that it is one of the most intense reads that I have had the fortune (though maybe that's not quite the right word) of reading recently. It starts as the simple tale of a single mother taking her children on a holiday to see the sea for the first time only as the book develops much darker undertones start to slowly seep out of the narrative and you realise this isn't going to be quite the picturesque read that you thought it might be.

To give away very much about this books storyline would be to spoil this book for the reader. I will try not to let the cat out of the bag when I describe what an amazing tension Olmi creates in this novel through the narration. The nameless young mother describes to the reader her trip away and as the tale goes on from the coach ride to hotel arrival, café treats to first sightings of the sea you are given small glimpses that something isn't quite right. Health centres, social workers, Sundays in bed all day and medication start to be mentioned and the further you read on the more you get that gut feeling all is not well and something darker is coming.

One of the quotes from the book mentions that though not a thriller this book does read as one and that's a very true statement. I can't think of many books where the atmosphere and intensity of the novel come off the page so instantly and leave you to read on even if you aren't sure you want to.

I know there are some people out there who think that if you don't have children then you can't relate to tales about mother's (or father's) feelings for their child or children.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Cunliffe TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 28 Feb. 2010
Format: Paperback
This skilfully written novel, Beside the Sea, tells the story of a troubled single mother, who takes her two young sons for a visit to the seaside. She describes the long bus journey through the rain to the unnamed coastal town, arriving at night, to book into a dismal hotel where she is assigned tiny room on the sixth floor. This is going to be no holiday, for despite the woman's desire to give her boys a treat, shortage of money and a mother's trouble mind dog their days, plus of course the unremitting rain.

I was quickly drawn in to this tragic tale, and finishing the book this morning, i found myself full of pity for this little family. If only someone had noticed. If only those men in the café had been more helpful. If only the hotel owner had called social services. But then no doubt they would have met with an uncomprehending response - they aren't my patch, they're just visiting, they'll be all right. Alas, they aren't all right, and we privileged readers see all the clues, the references to social workers, the neglect of essentials . . .

. . .I hadn't taken my medicine, but no one sat on me that night. I was like everyone else that night . . . I slept like I do during the day.

It takes money to organise a holiday, not a pitiful tea-tin containing loose change "scrimped from the change at the baker, and sometimes the supermarket". Véronique Olmi describes every detail of this couple of days with painful precision. The mother is trying so hard to make things work, but just doesn't have the ability. They trudge through the rain to see the sea, but they find, "great waves stretching furiously . . . gathering high to reach us then falling back down".
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Shaw TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 11 July 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a literally stunning narrative. It rings so true and is so close to the bone of life's terrors that one reads on with a sense of dread. The unnamed narrator, the mother, is taking her two boys, Stan and Kevin, to the seaside for a holiday, she's packed their sports-bags, though she can't carry anything because of a recent dislocation of her shoulder. The reader is forced to piece together the background to this story from such clues. Is she fleeing some kind of attack? No father is mentioned, the children never mention one but the mother seems to have a history of medication, all of which she has left behind for this trip to the sea. Quite early, I would say from the initial bus journey and arrival at the seaside, in this very short (111pp) novella, that one senses a growing darkness around the future for these vulnerable children and their increasingly vulnerable mother.

The writing is superbly natural throughout, with the two boys given distinct personalities. Stan, the elder boy is around nine - he is watchful, careful with his mother, but there is a moment on the beach where, looking back, one senses his estrangement, when something of his mother's desperation is given expression by this child. Kevin is the needy one, the baby, five or six years-old, forced, perhaps to behave badly, or younger than he is, in order to gain attention.

The mother has very little money with her, and that in small denominations, which causes her problems with a café proprietor. The mood of the novel is set by the constant rain, the muddy beach, the hot greasy chips, which are all she can afford for the children to eat. She never eats herself, however, spending everything on the boys, the last of their meagre collection of coins on rides at the funfair, and then they walk back to their hotel. There is a final scene. This is one of the darkest and most devastating books I have ever read.
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