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3.7 out of 5 stars
Changing Tides
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on 25 March 2014
Slow to develop but ultimately paints a detailed and moving picture of three people coming to terms with complex personal issues, in a seaside town with the ocean as an ever-present backdrop.
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on 7 January 2011
This is far superior to Ford's What We Remember which I have also reviewed on here. Ben, a marine biologiat living in Monterey Bay, has Caddie his 16 year old daughter to stay for the summer holidays. Their relationship is estranged largely due to Ben's indifference and Caddie's hostility at being taken away from her friends and lifestyle in Los Angeles. A second narrative runs parallel to this about Hudson Jones, a post graduate, investigating the possibilty thet a lost manuscript was written by John Steinbeck called Changing Tides and which may have been based on John Steinbeck's relationship with his lifelong friend, Ed Ricketts. Ford in the introduction does state that this is a work of fiction and not based on fact. The book has three main settings: marine biology/scuba diving, Monterey Bay and Steinbeck, not topics I am familiar with. The interesting theme is Caddie's growing maturity and development from a very self-centred girl to a much more caring and likeable person. Whilst the portraits are often air brushed and the relationships seen through rose tinted glasses there are far worse holiday reads with a gay interest than this book.
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on 12 October 2008
Ben is dreading the summer with his 16-year-old daughter, Carry, whom he has little seen for the last nine years. Hudson finds himself in Monterray on a voyage attempting to delve into the influences on Steinbeck - in particular the personal relationship with his close friend Ed.
A summer that begins in defensiveness and acting out, becomes a voyage of discovery and growth. Each of the three main characters come to some deep realisations and a preparedness to take enlivening risks, leading to the beginnings of fulfilment for each of them.
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on 16 November 2007
In Changing Tides, Michael Thomas Ford using powerful imagery, incorporates the perpetual ebb and flow of the ocean to plot the trajectory of three characters as they chart an uneasy course through love's perfidious waters where romance and passion eventually come to life in many unexpected guises.

Ben Ransome is a reserved and insular middle-aged marine biologist living in Monterey California whose life revolves around his work, his regular dives into the rocky waters off the coast proving to be his only source of solace. Much to Ben's surprise, however, his ex-wife Carol calls from Los Angeles insisting that their teenage daughter Caddie come to stay with him for the summer.

Married life for Ben was far from simple, a remote and dissident man from the outset, he was forced to recognize that he didn't feel this love for his daughter as he knew others did, and he'd left when Caddie was only seven. Now, sixteen years later, Ben approaches this meeting with a mixture of hesitancy and befuddlement. A lover of study and research, he was unable to understand his child then, but he's also convinced that he will be unable to understand her now: "she's like the equation I can't solve, the missing piece of a puzzle that eluded finding."

When Caddie arrives, the relationship with her father is anything but affable. A rebellious and worldly girl with a bad attitude, Caddie treats Ben like a stranger, coming and going as she pleases, smoking dope, staying out late, and sleeping with guys, and also treating her father with a distant blend of distain and anger.

Thrust into a situation that he is least capable of handling, understanding something as complex as a 16-year-old girl apparently seems to be beyond Ben capabilities. He longs for a diagram of Caddie, some neatly labeled chart that would point out the salient details and make understanding her a matter of memorization.

When Caddie has a one night stand with Nick, a local boy, intending him to be a momentary distraction, the incident proves merely to be a source of irritation to her father and proof that she couldn't be controlled. But Caddie also realizes that her father's entire life is a mystery to her, and it had never occurred to her to wonder how he managed; she new just enough about him to believe that he existed and "everything else was a blank."

Meanwhile, Hudson Jones, a young ambitious graduate student arrives in Monterey to research for masters' thesis on some of the influences on Steinbeck's work and also what could possibly be a lost manuscript of the famous author's called "Changing Tides". Constantly feeling unfulfilled, Hudson dreams of his lover Paul whose touch has now gone forever, and who eventually gave him the manuscript for safekeeping just before he died. Haunted by his dead lover's voice, a voice that constantly urges him on, Hudson is determined to keep digging until he finds out the truth.

Central to this "lost" novel is the story of two men, drinking buddies and friends who perhaps mirrored Steinbeck's own relationship with Ed Ricketts, the marine biologist who had so inspired Steinbeck, both in his writing and in his own deep interest in the ocean. But Hudson is sure there was something more to their relationship than just plutonic friendship and he is determined to prove this, not just for his career, but also in the hope that he free himself of his demons as well as give him the strength to let go of Paul.

Hudson, however, doesn't reckon on meeting Ben, the two of them forming a comfortable and intimate friendship, there devotion steadily deepening as they get to know one another, both characterizing themselves as "Mr. Science and Mr. Words," a couple of lonely men who both love Steinbeck. Meanwhile, Steinbeck's story gradually unfolds, a metaphorical tale of two men, unable to express themselves, yet similarly drawn to each other for reasons they cannot understand.

This languid and intense novel explores the small connections that exist, unseen, and the ties however, insubstantial, that exists between us all. The imagery of the ocean plays a significant part in the story as these characters grow and change and gradually overcome their fears about themselves and each other eventually conquering the failures of communication and impulsive judgments that create distance over time.

Caddie, in particular dives deeper and deeper, both metaphorically and spiritually until all that lies before her is a "small circle of gold light that keeps the sea monsters at bay." There gradually develops inside of her a new sense of wanting something more, something more than her old life, and what her old self has to offer. Ben must assuage his fury and confront the challenges of fatherhood, particularly with regard to his angry child - if Caddie wants to use him as a whipping boy, he sees little he can do to change her mind. And Hudson must try to outrun the weight on his shoulders, the burden that just becomes heavier every time he has to face his demons, not just Ben, the newest of them, but all of the others, the ones from which he's run from for so long.

The author makes the most of his setting, beautifully embedding his characters in the town of Monterey and surrounds, including the famous Cannery Row, now a tourist attraction, visited by people who as Hudson notes had mostly probably never heard of John Steinbeck or his famous book. While some of the later scenes do come across as a bit trite, Ford's descriptions of aquatic life are transcendent in their splendor and add much to Ben, Hudson, and Caddie's symbolic and very personal journey. Mike Leonard November 07.
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on 13 January 2008
Having grown up in many of the areas Michael Ford writes about, it is easy to see the landscapes / cityscapes and 'scenes'. They are all too familiar. His books are fast moving but sometimes offer not enough character development to deliver a great punch. His best collection of short stories, 'Tangled Sheets', is a must for any beach blanket in summer.
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