The Last Wave

Gillian Best. Spiderline (PGW, U.S. dist.; UTP, Canadian dist.), $16.95 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-1-4870-0293-0
Best’s flawed debut follows the life of an English Channel swimmer over six decades. It begins in 1947 in Dover, the coastal town where many cross-channel swims start. Martha is 10 years old when she falls off the pier into the sea and almost drowns. Her father’s friend saves her and then teaches her to swim—and she is hooked. Over the course of the novel, Martha swims the channel 10 times. The sea is an escape, a comfort, a challenge, and a home for Martha, helping her deal with life’s mundane responsibilities and dramatic crises. Though much happens in the story—Martha develops cancer; her husband, John, banishes their daughter, Iris, from the family home after she comes out as a lesbian; and John is later diagnosed with Alzheimer’s—too much of it is taken up by repetition that reinforces character traits (Martha’s body as one with the sea, John as grumpy old man) but doesn’t surprise or flesh out other dimensions of their characters. There often isn’t enough build up to the action, and so it lurches rather than flowing smoothly. The book is a good attempt but it doesn’t make a big splash. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/05/2018
Release date: 03/01/2018
Genre: Fiction
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