MORNING TIDE by Neil Gunn

MORNING TIDE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

 From the late Scottish author Gunn (d. 1973), another novel set in the chillingly pristine and seacoast landscapes (Young Art and Old Hector, 1991, etc.). Here, a young boy of 12 in a poor fishing village survives family crises and his own emotive tides and turns: a father at the mercy of a storm at sea; the departure of an older brother; a mother's near-fatal illness--and, of course, a nagging awareness of sexual attraction. Again, Gunn writes with a scowling intensity when he strains at a visual prize (``she could feel the angles of the old drystone dykes of the north in her own joints...''), and he goes after the most elusive of sensual bangs (``an oily brown taste'' is the mix of tea and meat). But when the author takes on the terror and majesty of a stormy sea, his statuesque, somewhat idealized people and their domestic concerns are an appropriate complementary landscape. The village watches in awe and fear as at last the boats come in, then as a wave lifts boat and men to thunder on the break and recede: ``White-flecked, like a great skin, the whole body of water could be seen swaying out to sea.'' Strong stuff, Men of Arran fashion, but affecting also is Gunn's reading of the changing moods in one family as an 18-year-old brother leaves for Australia: the close last dinner, the night's wild fling with piper and poaching, the breakfast (``already part of the journey''), the public goodbye, and the final, private griefs. Then there's the agony of the mother's illness (including ponderous metaphysical speculation) and some peeks (from a tree) at innocent love-play. The shuttered passions of an adolescent, in a stoic, loyal, closemouthed community, point to the possibilities of adulthood: ``All at once he started running...his bare legs twinkling across the field of the dawn.'' Purple--yes, a shade, but Gunn's sea is a deep blue, then furious white and mighty and real.

Pub Date: Feb. 17th, 1993
ISBN: 0-8027-1228-2
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Walker
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 1992




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