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Salt Paperback – August 26, 2008

3.7 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

"Every story heads towards tragedy, given the time," writes Pip, the mute teenage narrator in Page's bleak debut set in marshy, mid–twentieth 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
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (August 26, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143114123
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143114123
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,829,860 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Hannah Bochart on April 9, 2009
Format: Paperback
Once, long ago, there was a time when books could rise through the ranks of their peers to stand as timeless classics that needed only their title and author as an introduction. GRAPES OF WRATH, CATCHER IN THE RYE, THE SOUND AND THE FURY, MOBY DICK, LITTLE WOMEN, A TALE OF TWO CITIES, all of these monoliths will ever need is their reputation to proceed them. Those days are gone, my friends. In bookstores of today the shelves are lined with so-called classics that only need a stamp of approval from Oprah's Book Club (which usually requires a certain amount of sap oozing from the material) to gain attention. Fleeting attention, I should say, since the self-life of fame is short in the written world these days. And in the flood of ready-made popularity, true, timeless gems are swept away into the shoals of obscurity. Such is the case with SALT. When I found a copy of it sitting on the shelf of a local bookstore, I was intrigued by the unlikely cover, and so, ignoring the ancient warning, judged it to be a worth while expenditure. And this time, I was right to have done so.

The tale begins not with an introduction to the narrator, as one would expect, but on the windswept flats of Norfolk, England. The year is 1945, the "Good War" was almost over, and being incapacitated on the shores of enemy soil is one place a young German soldier would not wish to find himself. But there he is, sunk neck-deep in a salt marsh, at the mercy of a strange young woman who happens to be passing by. Without a second thought given to wartime etiquette, Goose, as we learn the girl is called, fishes "Hands," as she mistakenly calls him, from the grip of the marsh, takes him home, cleans him up, and cooks him a meal.
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Format: Paperback
"Finding a man buried up to his neck in mud. That's how it's meant to have started." With those opening lines of his first novel, Jeremy Page takes the unsuspecting reader on an enchanting journey rich with poetry and personal mythology. Salt is tragic and absurd, bleak yet abundant, mystifying and deeply satisfying.

The bones of the story tell a family saga as ordinary as can be: generations of eccentricity, depression and madness; poverty and ignorance; personal wreckage, communal despair, eventual redemption.

But its flesh and blood is the language used to describe a most bizarre set of circumstances. Page has created a gorgeous linguistic concoction out of the terse dialect of his characters and the insight and nuance of the narrator, a boy born mute who begins his own life story with the family history of how his grandmother--the eccentric marshwoman Goose--met his grandfather, a downed German paratrooper, in the mud of the English marshland in 1945.

Salt is set in Norfolk, England, an isolated sea town whose cruel geography dictates the fortunes of its inhabitants. It's wet, chilly and dreary with a constantly shifting foundation that seems to be half land, half water and all mud, and there is an undeniable acceptance among the local folk of how easily one's spirit can fall victim to the forces of such a shifting, unstable landscape.

The marshes and channels, the wrecked boats and the sinking houses, the huge skies and their ever-threatening weather all conspire to create an atmosphere of mystery and magic. It's a place where people have names like Kipper and Pip, where tidal flooding becomes part of the family lore, where cloud-reading leads to deep revelation.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I found this to be an amazing debut written with the confidence as old and weathered as the setting. Page creates a world that is seductive, darkly sweet in landscape and story perpetually damp and dreary.
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Format: Hardcover
This is a fantastic first novel, the sort of highly-literary treatise on family that would be remarkable coming late in an author's career-but, as it is, it's a wonder and a treat to consume.
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