From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. This remarkable first novel by British script editor Page elevates a tragic family history to the level of myth. In the dying months of the Second World War Goose, a strange, isolated woman who reads omens in the clouds and lives alone in a cottage on the salt marshes of Norfolk, England, finds a German soldier partially buried in the marsh mud. She takes him in, he gets her pregnant and then he flees (on a makeshift boat featuring a quilt for a sail) while she's in labor. Daughter Lil, who grows up wild and strange, becomes the love interest of two brothers (named Shrimp and Kipper) and leaves the marshes in shame at age 16. The story is told through the eyes of Pip, Lil's son, whose inability (or unwillingness) to speak draws Lil and husband George back to the marshes and to Goose. The unforgiving landscape becomes one of the book's main characters; it's a ruthless, powerful force that claims Pip's family members one at a time. But it is Pip's infatuation with Elsie, an odd girl a few years his senior, that will have the direst consequences of all. Page has reinvented the fairy tale with this disturbing and magical saga. (July)
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"Every story heads towards tragedy, given the time," writes Pip, the mute teenage narrator in Page's bleak debut set in marshy, midtwentieth century Norfolk, England. Pip is determined to unravel his family's history, beginning with the romantic interlude between his grandmother and the German soldier she found buried up to his neck in mud. From that coupling came Pip's mother, Lil, a tragically depressed woman who spent her days reading the clouds and lamenting her increasingly estranged marriage. Pip is a relentlessly unreliable narrator, interweaving fact and fiction to such a degree that even the most astute reader will have trouble distinguishing between the two. Pip's Norfolk dialect is often difficult to navigate, resulting in a tale that's both evocative and exhausting. The young lad has his hands full trying to make sense of his life. His growing affection for fiery-haired neighbor Elsie only complicates matters. This odd, provincial tale never quite hits on all cylinders, but Page is the kind of first novelist readers should give a chance, if only because he likely has better books in him. Block, Allison
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