The youngest of a family grown from Norfolk’s saltmarshes, Pip tells his own story through the legends of his family’s past. His stories cover the lives of three generations who scrape a life from the land that is almost sea.
His grandmother reads the future in the clouds and fears that everyone will leave her. His grandfather arrives buried in mud and soon covered in samphire. And the history of birthing and leave-taking mingle with the rhythm of the ocean, with the coming and going of the marshland that writes the landscape into the histories of the people who live there.
Jeremy Page’s writing has a magical quality that lends Norfolk and its people a timeless, mythical quality. Pip and his family are too grounded in the land to be changed by the speed of modernity and so Salt drifts free of temporal moorings and into ancient stories of Old Norse and the rhythms of the season.
I could go into the details of Pip’s story but I don’t want to offer spoilers for a novel that creeps its quiet way into the pulsating heart of the earth whose waters rise and fall with the same regular but occasional wildness of our own breathing. There is an inevitability, an ingrained nature to Pip’s story that makes Salt a bleak comedy you would be hard-pressed not to enjoy.
Next week I’m reading A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler.