A beautiful, short novel. A couple is murdered brutally, senselessly and suddenly on a beach and lie there for days before being discovered. The book has three interlaced narratives, which lead up to, or away from, the moment of the murder, which is the opening of the book. One works back from this moment in the minutes and hours of that last day. It is a banal, ordinary day like any other - no sense of foreboding, no sense of arriving at a point - just another day and just two lives suddenly squashed flat like those of two flies. It is hopelessly random - they are there for the first time since they first met, with Joseph determined to try to relive the romantic memory of their first sexual encounter, in the dunes there. Secondly, the novel narrates that first visit years before, when they first met as a pair of botany students studying the natural life of the bay. And thirdly, the novel moves forward from the moment of death.It describes in painstaking detail the changes to the bodies, not least in the invasion of the local wildlife. They are botany and biology professors, and this is bare, elemental, remorselessly naked and cruel life - beautiful but compassionless, as I remember it being in 'Quarantine'. It then widens out to show us Joseph and Celice's only daughter Syl, wondering where they are, and reporting them missing. Fantastically well written, often beautiful, but also a touch cold and humourless. There is a something of Golding about Crace - real accomplishment conveying a very particular vision of life, which is persuasive, has truth, but ultimately is only partial.
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