RIPTIDE by Peter Benson

RIPTIDE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A first US appearance for a Guardian Fiction Award winner who turns surfing--on British waves, no less--into a sustained but strained metaphor of love and loss as a young man becomes reconciled with his mother after a lengthy separation. Duncan Blaine was ten when his father died in a gruesome accident. Afterward, his mother, unable to ""cope with the nightmares that followed, shopping, other people's kitchens""--or, it seems, with Duncan--left the boy with her sister ""and disappeared off the face of the earth."" For years afterward, surfing the local waves became Duncan's only antidote for the memories of the happy family he once had. His surfing interest had been sparked when, at seven, he saw a man catch each wave with perfect balance. It was his father who made him his first ""board,"" and from then on Duncan was hooked. Now, on his 19th birthday, a card arrives from his mother with a Cornwall address--a sign that she now wants to see him? Indeed she does. She's leaving soon for Canada, where she's to marry Clive, a cardiologist who saved her from committing suicide at Clapham Junction, and she wants ""to say goodbye, and properly this time""--a response that doesn't exactly comfort Duncan, who's felt rejected all these years. But as he tries to understand and forgive his mother, he meets Clive; begins an affair with hotel receptionist Estelle; offers deep thoughts on surfing; and even does a bit to clear his head. His mother, meanwhile, torn between the past, which Duncan evokes, and a future in a strange place, resolves the conflict predictably. Duncan grieves, but with surfing and Estelle's love, he'll survive: ""...life might be a bastard, but that's no reason to deny it a wedding."" More profound than the Beach Boys but also more pretentious. Not a perfect wave, but surfers might be charmed.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1995
Page count: 218pp
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton--dist. by Trafalgar