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This review is from: Breathing Underwater (Paperback)
Two of the most extraordinary books of recent times have been about mothers taking their children to the sea. The second is Veronique Olmi's chilling Beside the Sea, which shares much of the darkness of this novel but is in many other ways its opposite.
Darrieussecq's language flows over the reader like warm waves on a sunny day. It's a style that is in danger of being too rich (novellas often provoke the question "how long could such and such be sustained?" Fortunately in the case of Breathing Underwater, as with Beside the Sea, the answer is "exactly this long"). We are in danger of drowning in the prose, being engulfed by its languid warmth, and any one of a number of metaphors provoked by the book's title and story. But, as with the characters - the mother who runs away from life taking her daughter with her and the world-weary detective (who reminds me a lot of Arbergast from Psycho) who comes searching for her - the prose's gentle but unrelenting warmth wins us over and leaves us transformed as it does the novel's protagonists.
Infinitely superior to Pig Tales (which fortunately I read afterwards or I may not have come to this), whcih was a simple allegory stretched too far, Breathing Underwater is one of those deceptively brilliant novellas one comes across so rarely that illustrates exactly what the form can do in pushing a single idea to the edge of breaking point. An absolute masterclass recommended without hesitation.