Top positive review
50 people found this helpful
on 3 November 2016
This is a novel that is a meditation and rumination on death and dying. However, this is not dark nor depressing. In true Drabble style, it has a low key, clinical and dispassionate feel with a gentle wit. This is not a book driven by action or plot, it feels more like a meander through the lives of a family and friends. Francesca Stubbs is in her seventies, and working for an elder care charity. She is enjoying her conference in the Midlands on the elderly and the issues that surround them. She has the chance to meet colleagues and listen to talks on the latest gadgets aimed to improve life for the old. Despite having a brief and fractious marriage with Claude, she now finds herself having come full circle, having become his carer and in charge of his meals, over which a lot of time is expended. She has two children, Christopher and Poppet. Christopher is coming to terms with a death by going to the Canaries and finding solace in the company of a gay couple, Bennett and Ivor.
The narrative switches from person to person, we learn their thoughts and lives. Each character in turn analyses the others, with a lack of sentimentality. Death and dying touches all of them. Poppet is in the west country facing rising waters. Conditions facing the elderly are explored such as dementia and strokes. The important function of memory is a key issue. The dark flood is reference to what could a number of scenarios in the novel. The influx of immigrants into the Canaries. The rising tide claiming the dead, and returning for the dying. Rising waters in the west country. Where the novel really excels is in the characterisation and insights into their lives, the everyday, history, relationships, politics etc. The process of reflection on life and death has a redemptive quality. At one point, Fran refers to ageing as a fascinating journey into the unknown, which might well be the way some see it. This is a book that I feel I need to spend time thinking over. A highly recommended read. Thanks to Canongate for an ARC. (less)