BEA'S BOOK NOOK "I can't imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once." C. S. Lewis “If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” ― Oscar Wilde
Monday, June 6, 2011
Review of The Language of the Sea by James MacManus
Release Date: May 10th, 2011
More Info: Amazon Book Depository
A lyrical and affecting family drama reminiscent of The Shipping News which challenges readers to re-examine their perception of nature.
A striking blend of realism and contemporary myth-making, this unforgettable novel tells the story of marine biologist Leo Kemp. Having lost his teaching position thanks to outspoken views, Leo decides to go on one last field trip with his students. The outing becomes disastrous when the weather turns and Leo is thrown overboard. The evocative description of Leo’s journey explores what can happen beyond our perceived knowledge of science. James MacManus tests the bounds of reality with his cunning narrative set within the beautiful community of Cape Cod.
Leo Kemp is passionate about his work, to the point that his family life has suffered. He loves his daughter and still cares for his wife but he is devoted to his work and to his causes - his push for science to study the language and communication of seals, and his bone-deep belief that science, including his employer, are focused on the wrong things. He is in trouble over the latter with his employer when he gets washed overboard. At times it was hard to connect with Kemp or to understand him, Macmanus's portrayal of him was distant. Yet, that also underscored his distance from those in his life and their reactions to him.
The book is told from multiple third person perspectives - Leo's, his wife's, his friend Sandy,the omniscient narrator, and a few other people. The third person perspective allows MacManus to keep Leo distant so we don't get as connected but it also allows him to step outside of Leo's mind and see his life and the effects of his disappearance in a broader perspective.
I admit, when Kemp gets lost overboard, I expected things to go in a different direction, but I was not disappointed in how MacManus handled it. Kemp is still emotionally distant but his new life suits him very well. The ending of the book took me by surprise, I wasn't expecting it, and yet it made sense once I thought about it. It fit with the overall direction of the story.
One small niggle for me was MacManus's use of British terms and slang. Kemp and his wife are from Scotland so it makes sense that they would use those terms but it was jarring when the American characters used them. I had to stop and doublecheck whose perspective I was reading.
I had trouble at first with the book, I couldn't get interested, but by the time Kemp is swept overboard, on page 76, I was hooked and had to keep reading.
This hardcover was received from the publisher for review.