The River

The River

by Tricia Wastvedt
     
 

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Tricia Wastvedt's debut novel, met with critical acclaim in England, is a hypnotically readable portrait of a community scarred, but eventually reawakened, by its grief. Two children drown during the summer of 1958 in the English village of Cameldip. Their parents, Isabel and Robert, are bound together in guilt and anger, and as the years pass, the tragedy weaves

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Overview

Tricia Wastvedt's debut novel, met with critical acclaim in England, is a hypnotically readable portrait of a community scarred, but eventually reawakened, by its grief. Two children drown during the summer of 1958 in the English village of Cameldip. Their parents, Isabel and Robert, are bound together in guilt and anger, and as the years pass, the tragedy weaves itself into the invisible fabric of village life.
Robert, finding solace in labor, builds several tree houses that transform the look of the town, and as the years pass the structures grow entwined with other houses. It is thirty years after the tragedy when Anna, a young pregnant woman escaping her life in London, arrives in Cameldip and is taken in by Isabel. As Anna slowly uncovers the secrets of the town's past, she becomes inexorably drawn into the conflict in which Isabel and Robert have been locked for three decades. A story of families, old scars, and new beginnings, The River is a lyrical and haunting tale of betrayal, failure, love, and fortitude.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This eerie first novel plumbs the dark undercurrents of the sleepy English town of Cameldip, where two children drown in 1958, and the grief of their death ripples through generations of its inhabitants. In chapters alternating between the year of the drowning, the parents' lives before the accident and a season 30 years later, Wastvedt brings the players to life: Isabel, who can't make peace with the death of her two children; her husband, Robert, whose rejection by Isabel leads him to Sarah, a young maid; Josef, the drowned children's playmate who grows up with survivor's guilt; and Anna, who comes to Cameldip from London in the 1980s to have her baby out of wedlock. The chapters set in the late 1940s have a lovely, elegiac feel, which makes an effective contrast to the chapters set later, when Wastvedt slowly ratchets up the sense of dread. Then, a teenage crush threatens Josef and Anna's tentative relationship, the patter of small, ghostly feet haunts the town, and Isabel's implacable grief veers toward madness as she takes possession of Anna's son. Though the characters' nostalgia can be frustrating, this suspenseful, atmospheric story progresses with the irresistible flow of the river itself, and readers may find themselves pulled in right up to the ghastly ending. Agent, Jean Naggar. (May) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
KLIATT
In 1958, two children accidentally drown in the river near the English village of Cameldip. The story of what happens to their parents, Isabel and Robert, before and after this event is the underlying plotline of this book, although most of the action takes place in the present. The many repercussions of this tragedy are told alternately in flashbacks and in the story of what happens when a young unwed mother stays with Isabel. The past and present collide 29 years after the initial tragedy at Christmas when all the separate stories of the townspeople come together when another tragedy strikes. The author does a masterful job of showing how unhappiness must be dealt with by everyone and how grief has its own timetable. The slow unraveling of Isabel's personality is at the center of the story, but each of the characters is given careful attention, especially that of the young mother, Anna. The ending is dramatic and the author suggests what seems like an inevitable conclusion, but teases the listener with twists and turns and then adds a poignant footnote. From beginning to end, this novel evokes the feeling of an old b/w British movie, with mists and madness in the atmosphere. KLIATT Codes: SA--Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2004, Grove Atlantic, 345p., Ages 15 to adult.
—Nola Theiss
Kirkus Reviews
A melodramatic debut set in an idyllic English river valley. For 30 years, the tragic drowning of the MacKinnon children, Catherine and Jack, in a boating accident in the 1950s, has haunted not only their subsequently estranged parents, Isabel and Robert, but also Josef Sevier, the friend who did not drown with them. Isobel, eaten up with fury and disbelief at her loss, has kept her mental instability in check under a carapace of steely efficiency. But when unmarried mother Anna settles in the blissful Devon village of Cameldip, Isabel becomes increasingly delusional and possessive of Anna's new baby, Matthew. Threat and suspense are juxtaposed with lyrical romanticism as Wastvedt seesaws up and down the decades, introducing other village couples and interspersing layers of detail into the basic story. Josef's parents, Adelie and Xavier, arrived dreamily, stepping off a train without their luggage, transplanted from Alsace to live a life of Gallic charm among the water meadows. The kind, widowed local doctor employed an attractive young housekeeper, Sarah, who comforted Robert after the tragedy and bore him a daughter, a secret she never divulged to him. Josef, grown into a withdrawn innkeeper who keeps shire horses in his art nouveau aviary, becomes involved with Anna as Christmas approaches. Then the story switches gears, dodging here and there among its many characters, piling on the effects and pulling out all the stops. Isabel, now completely convinced that Matthew is Jack, bashes Anna over the head and snatches the baby. A fire destroys Josef's aviary-though not his horses. A flood surges down the river, threatening Isabel, who has taken Matthew on another of her deranged walks.Robert saves them both but dies himself. Nor is there a happy ending for brain-damaged Anna. Wastvedt's flowing, long-winded tale, set in a Constable landscape in a parallel universe, is a deft but peculiar fusion of gothic and rhapsodic.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802170071
Publisher:
Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
03/28/2005
Pages:
345
Product dimensions:
5.56(w) x 8.22(h) x 0.91(d)

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