A lyrical and elegiac novel about a real past and an imagined future.
A family tragedy forces Guy, the main character, to relocate on an old Dutch ship, the Flood, a 90-foot coastal barge on which he lives. The tragedy occurs when Guy, his wife Judy and his young daughter Freya are picnicking in a field on a “perfect” day. Something freakish and unimaginable happens—a loose stallion wildly attacks them and tramples Freya. Three months after, after they come close to completing a double suicide out of despair, this incident leads to the breakup of Guy and Judy’s marriage. Guy spends the next five years of his life roaming about the North Sea area on the Flood. Each night he lovingly crafts a fantasy life in his diary, imagining himself into the life that might have been had Freya not died and his marriage not collapsed. Page (Salt, 2007) alternates his narrative between Guy’s dismal present—the cold, damp, windy and occasionally treacherous conditions of life on the sea—and the deeply personal imaginative projection of the life-that-might-have-been, including a trip across America and a Nashville recording session for Judy. His life on the ship is complicated when he meets Marta, an attractive woman with a gorgeous 22-year-old daughter, Rhona. Both women are attracted to Guy, but he finds himself in a curious chronological limbo, for he’s ten years younger than Marta and 15 years older than her daughter. Both relationships verge on the sexual but never quite get there. Meanwhile, in Guy’s diary all is not well, for Judy begins an affair with Phil, a musician who’d played in a folk band with both Guy and Judy—and it turns out that Guy’s imagined version of events mirrors what actually happens in his life.
In this impressive novel, Page is at home on the estuaries around the North Sea, on a journey across America and in the lonely spaces in family relationships.