What’s it all about?:
As Montrealer Catherine Day sets foot in a remote fishing village and starts asking around about her birth mother, the body of a woman dredges up in a fisherman’s nets. Not just any woman, though: Marie Garant, an elusive, nomadic sailor and unbridled beauty who once tied many a man’s heart in knots. Detective Sergeant Joaquin Morales, newly drafted to the area from the suburbs of Montreal, barely has time to unpack his suitcase before he’s thrown into the deep end of the investigation. On Quebec’s outlying Gaspé Peninsula, the truth can be slippery, especially down on the fishermen’s wharves. Interviews drift into idle chit-chat, evidence floats off with the tide and the truth lingers in murky waters. It’s enough to make DS Morales reach straight for a large whisky.
What did I think?:
A huge thank you to Anne Cater, Karen Sullivan and all involved with Orenda Books for sending me a review copy of We Were The Salt Of The Sea in exchange for an honest review. I’m absolutely delighted to be a supporter of the books that Orenda is publishing in the past year, the variety and strength of writing that I’ve seen in the books I’ve read and reviewed so far has been nothing short of stellar. We Were The Salt Of The Sea is another blinder, Canadian crime fiction that almost feels literary in its execution and with a quiet, gentle humour that immediately tickles the reader and makes them warm even more to both the plot and the characters.
This novel follows two main characters, the first is a woman called Catherine Day who is visiting a small village in order to get answers about her birth mother, Marie Garant, a woman who adored sailing, spent very little time on land and held the hearts of quite a few men within the village. The second character is Detective Sergeant Joaquin Moralès, another outsider who takes a new job within the police and is thrust immediately into an investigation involving a body who turns up one day entangled in a fisherman’s net. Joaquin must try to infiltrate the closed, secretive community to get some answers about why this person may have died and indeed, if the death is at all suspicious. For personal reasons, Catherine also becomes entrenched in the mystery and as a result, begins to discover a lot more about her mother’s history and about herself as a person.
When I first started this novel, I was expecting a novel take on the crime fiction genre and essentially, that’s exactly what I got. However, I wasn’t expecting how lyrical I found the writing to be in parts, this was almost a love song to the sea and you can really sense that the author may have a close connection of her own to the water. It might not be a novel for anyone expecting a fast pace or a thrilling plot because this story is much more methodical, slower and richer in detail than that and is almost more a character study of a community than a page-turning mystery. What kept me turning the pages? Definitely the humour, which was a very welcome surprise! Some of the characters we meet in We Were The Salt Of The Sea, for example, the enthusiasm of Renaud Boissonneau, bistro owner extraordinare was infectious and I found myself smiling uncontrollably at his interludes, particularly as he tries (a bit TOO hard) to help frustrated DS Moralès and ends up irritating him slightly!
As the novel continues, the mystery is slowly unravelled and light is shed about some of the relationships within the community giving Catherine a very clear idea of what she has to do next. There were so many characters that just bounced off the pages for me in this story, they all had their own story to tell and I adored how well rounded and authentic each one felt. This is a beautifully written tale that I think would appeal to lovers of literary fiction and I appreciated how the crime element changed a story about all the different characters of a tight-knit community to a mystery that by the end of the novel, just begs to be solved.
Would I recommend it?:
But of course!
Star rating (out of 5):
Roxanne Bouchard reads a lot, but she laughs even more. Her first novel, Whisky et Paraboles, garnered an array of prestigious awards in Quebec and caught the attention of British researcher, Jasmina Bolfek-Radovani, of the University of Westminster, who saw for herself how Roxanne weaves poetry and geography together to delve into her characters’ intimate worlds. This desire for intimacy permeates all of Roxanne’s novels, as well as her play, J’t’aime encore, and her published essays, which have focused on the human aspects and impacts of the military. In 2013, the publication of her private correspondence with Corporal Patrick Kègle, entitled En terrain miné, started quite the conversation.
This thought-provoking discussion about the need for weapons was a stepping-stone for Roxanne to undertake unprecedented research at Quebec’s largest military base. Meeting and speaking with dozens of women and men who served in Afghanistan in 2009 inspired her to write a collection of hard-hitting short stories, Cinq balles dans la tête, slated for publication in autumn 2017.
We Were the Salt of the Sea is Roxanne Bouchard’s fifth novel, and the first to be translated into English. As much a love story and a nostalgic tale as it is a crime novel, it was shortlisted for a number of crime fiction and maritime literature awards in Quebec and France. It haunts people’s memories, ties seafarers’ hearts in knots and seeps its way into every nook and cranny, but most importantly, the sea in this book is a calling for us all to set our sails to the wind. Roxanne Bouchard is currently writing an essay on literary creativity and plotting Detective Sergeant Joaquin Moralès’s next investigation.
Find Roxanne on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4120411.Roxanne_Bouchard
on Twitter at: @RBouchard72
Thank you once again to Anne Cater, Karen Sullivan and Orenda Books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. We Were The Salt Of The Sea was published on the 28th February 2018 and is available from all good bookshops now. If you want some more fantastic reviews don’t forget to check out my fellow bloggers stops for some more fantastic reviews!
Link to book on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35960850-we-were-the-salt-of-the-sea?ac=1&from_search=true