Customer Review

5.0 out of 5 stars Demands a second reading, 20 Mar 2014
This review is from: Call of the Undertow by Linda Cracknell ( 2013 ) Paperback (Paperback)
I was recommended this book by a friend who reviewed it in Northwords Now a few months ago. I bought it and read it and enjoyed it so much that I chose it for my local book reading club as our March selection.

Interestingly, on a first reading I would have given it 3, maybe 4 stars at most. It's well-written, some engaging descriptions of the location and the heroine's interaction with Trothan (the young boy). But the plot seemed a little unsure of itself at times. However, after reading it a second time it became apparent the novel is more subtle than I realised.

Without giving away too much of the plot, the story concerns Maggie (a cartographer) escaping to the remote North-Eastern corner of Scotland. She makes it her own Terra Incognita where days become 'empty white sheets'. Content with a reclusive life, Maggie is invited against her will to speak about her work to a class at the local primary school. Here she first comes across Trothan, a loner who seems the one most interested in her presentation.

The author creates a clever balance between the cast of characters and various other elements of the plot:
Maggie and Trothan - both seeming to be pulled between two worlds - both temporary visitors rather than 'stayers'.
Their fascination with maps and map-making - Maggie intent on showing what's 'important' - Trothan looking to record the mythological landscape of the area.
The Ranger and Trothan - both passionate and knowledgeable about the local environment - but Trothan the only one to react against those who are destroying the habitat and its natural resources.
Maggie and Trothan's mother - each carrying the loss of a child on their conscience - each burdened by their own guilty secret.

There's so much that makes sense on a second reading, not least the reaction of the parents and the local community to the tragic event that forms the climax of the novel.
Interestingly the other members of the reading group felt let down by the ending. Enjoying the evocative language, the rich descriptions of the area and the way the plot unravels but finding the conclusion rather depressing.
It was only when I explained the link with the Selkie myth (my own interpretation anyway) and the numerous clues within the text that they were able to consider a totally different outcome. More life-affirming than tragic.
I'll not spoil the fun for any readers but I laughed out loud when I discovered the almost throwaway clue where Maggie first sees Trothan in the school playground and marvels at his uncanny skills with a football. Something I'd dismissed on first reading.
So 5 stars after the second reading. And I'm looking forward to the author's next novel with pleasure.
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