cover image Canvey Island

Canvey Island

James Runcie, . . Other Press, $13.95 (301pp) ISBN 978-1-59051-293-7

In 1953, a major flood devastated Britain’s Canvey Island, killing dozens of residents. Runcie (The Discovery of Chocolate ) uses this disaster as the starting point for his beautifully crafted novel, which examines the effects of guilt, love, lust and betrayal in the wake of tragedy. On the night of the flood, Lily skips the big dance on the mainland to stay home with her young son, Martin, telling her husband, Len, to go with her sister, Violet, and her husband. When the flood waters rise, Lily and Martin try to escape but Lily gets stuck, sends Martin for help yet drowns before rescuers arrive. Though Martin leaves the island to attend Cambridge, he cannot shake his guilt over his mother’s death and resents his father and aunt, who take up together soon after the flood. Years later, when he’s a parent himself, Martin returns to Canvey Island and is forced to confront everything he thought he had left behind. Told through multiple perspectives, Runcie’s story eloquently weaves together a national tragedy and the fate of a single family with powerful results. (Nov.)