What’s it all about?:
Adam is a stay-at-home dad who is also working on a history of the bombing and rebuilding of Coventry Cathedral. He is a good man and he is happy. But one day, he receives a call from his daughter’s school to inform him that, for no apparent reason, fifteen-year-old Miriam has collapsed and stopped breathing. In that moment, he is plunged into a world of waiting, agonising, not knowing.
The story of his life and the lives of his family are rewritten and re-told around this shocking central event, around a body that has inexplicably failed. In this exceptionally courageous and unflinching novel of contemporary life Sarah Moss goes where most of us wouldn’t dare to look, and the result is riveting – unbearably sad, but also miraculously funny and ultimately hopeful.
The Tidal Zone explores parental love, overwhelming fear, illness and recovery. It is about clever teenagers and the challenges of marriage. It is about the NHS, academia, sex and gender in the twenty-first century, the work-life juggle, and the politics of packing lunches and loading dishwashers. It confirms Sarah Moss as a unique voice in modern fiction and a writer of luminous intelligence.
What did I think?:
The Tidal Zone was one of the most anticipated reads on my TBR last year and I had heard so many great reviews of it from dear friends whose opinion I trust implicitly and from all you wonderful bloggers out there. It seemed every review I read was a universal outpouring of joy about how wonderful this book was and how I had to read it immediately, I wouldn’t regret it. Now, I get excited about leaving books for a little bit until the hype dies down where I’m not too anxious that I’m not going to feel the same as everyone else but I couldn’t leave this book any longer gathering dust on my shelves, I simply had to read it. Did the dreaded hype monster get me? Well, not really however I felt like I couldn’t give it it five stars in the end BUT it was very, very close.
This story follows a family consisting of Adam, the primary care-giver, mostly stay at home dad and part-time lecturer at the local university, Emma the mother and harassed GP, bread-winner for the family and two daughters, Miriam and Rose. One day, their world is rocked forever when Adam receives a phone call from the school saying that Miriam has been involved in an “incident,” and is being rushed to hospital via ambulance. This incident is a lot more serious than initially expected, Miriam was diagnosed at the hospital with “idiopathic anaphylaxis,” a life-threatening allergic reaction which caused her heart to stop and her to stop breathing, leading to the P.E. teacher having to perform CPR on her. The rest of the narrative follows this family as they attempt to re-build their lives after this horrific incident. They never really find out what caused Miriam’s episode and although she is given an epipen to counteract future problems, Adam and Emma are constantly worried that any slightest, unanticipated event could mean that they lose their daughter forever.
This story is wonderfully dramatic but so gorgeously written, it’s like slipping into new bed sheets with a cup of hot chocolate, complete silence and a long, interrupted night of sleep ahead of you. Well, that’s what it made me feel when I was reading it! I was on tenterhooks especially at the beginning when everything that is happening with poor Miriam is so unsure and I really felt for the parents, Adam and Emma who I think coped admirably considering the precarious situation that they found themselves in. Although I wasn’t expecting the direction the story then went in, it doesn’t mean to say that I enjoyed it less.
In fact, I loved getting to know the family as individuals and it became so much more than a story about a young girl who almost dies, it became a real character study with so many inter-connecting themes like gender roles in the family, the importance of love and support from your nearest and dearest and most importantly, how to rebuild after a disaster takes hold. Interspersed between this family’s story is snippets from Adam’s father’s life, his Jewish grandparents life as they fled the Nazi’s and Adam’s current project, the history of Coventry Cathedral. We learn many historical details about it, particularly when it was re-built and completely re-designed after being almost totally destroyed during the war.
I have to admit, this latter portion of the narrative is why I’m not giving The Tidal Zone five stars, some parts were very interesting (particularly details of the bombing) but sadly, I felt myself switching off a little bit during these sections and I didn’t feel as gripped as I perhaps should have done. Nevertheless, I’m sure other people will find this a lot more fascinating then I did, so please don’t let this tiny, insignificant niggle of mine put you off if you’re intrigued by this book. It’s a novel that has continued to play on my mind a long time after finishing it and I’m so excited that I still have another three books by Sarah Moss to read on my shelves, after this stunning piece of work, she will definitely become one of my must read authors in the future.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):