Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Shore

Title:  The Shore
Author:  Sara Taylor
Publication Information:  Hogarth. 2015. 320 pages.
ISBN:  0553417738 / 978-0553417739

Book Source:  I received this book through a publisher's giveaway free of cost in exchange for an honest review. Thank you Shelf Awareness.

Opening Sentence:  "When news of the murder breaks, I'm in Matthew's, buying chicken necks so my little sister Renee and I can go crabbing."

Favorite Quote:  "We have to give people what they need, not what they think they need."

Rape. Child abuse. Domestic violence. Murder. Cover ups. Drugs. Plagues. These are just some of the horrors contained in this book. This book is a series of interconnected stories from the 1800s all the way to the year 2143 all set on the "shore", a group of islands off Virginia's coast. The stories center on women and girls and often involve violence against women.

The review copy I received has a place holder for a family tree. Unfortunately, the family tree that will be in the final book is not in the uncorrected proof. I understand the premise that the characters in all stories are linked as a family. Without the family tree, the two things that are common between all the stories is the setting of "the shore" and the violence. The connections between the characters are not clear in the text and become too cumbersome to keep track of. Thus, the reading of the book becomes more of a set of short stories rather than a linked, cohesive novel. In that format, it becomes difficult to get attached to or cheer for any given character. That connection might keep the violent nature of the book in context instead of it becoming the main theme. Without that character connection, the acts of violence become the center of the book.

Based on the title and cover, the "shore" itself is a connection between and an integral part of all these stories. Virginia's eastern shore has a set of barrier islands. People have long attempted to settled the islands, only to be driven back by the ocean and the weather. Today, most are uninhabited, with some offering tourist access to beaches and environmental preserves. Beaches, marshes, and dunes form the landscape of these islands and of this story. Unfortunately, instead of being able to appreciate the natural beauty, I am left with a sense of its isolation. The visions of the horrific acts described in the book loom so large that the land itself and its wild beauty is overshadowed. The book could have been set anywhere; the "shore" becomes incidental to the content of the stories.

The back copy of the book compares this work to that of David Mitchell. For a fan of David Mitchell, that comparison sets the bar pretty high. Yes, like David Mitchell's work, this book travels across a vast passage of time, telling a story from each time period with different characters. What I love about David Mitchell's work is his ability to change his writing style from section to section. Each section is like reading a completely different book - the voice, the language, the writing style, the descriptions. Even when I am not sure I like the story, his ability to weave a tale and incorporate a world of philosophy into that story draw me in.

This book unfortunately does not garner the same reaction. Although the characters and times of the story change, the voice seems consistent throughout, making it feel like the same same story in repetition. Also, I am sure the book has some overarching themes and statements; unfortunately, I did not get to that point in my understanding of the book even by its end. This was really not the book for me.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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