Source: Review Copy
Publication: 28 February 2018 from Orenda Books
As Montrealer Catherine Day sets foot in a remote fishing village and starts asking around about her birth mother, the body of a woman dredges up in a fisherman’s nets. Not just any woman, though: Marie Garant, an elusive, nomadic sailor and unbridled beauty who once tied many a man’s heart in knots. Detective Sergeant Joaquin Morales, newly drafted to the area from the suburbs of Montreal, barely has time to unpack his suitcase before he’s thrown into the deep end of the investigation. On Quebec’s outlying Gaspé Peninsula, the truth can be slippery, especially down on the fishermen’s wharves. Interviews drift into idle chit-chat, evidence floats off with the tide and the truth lingers in murky waters. It’s enough to make DS Morales reach straight for a large whisky… Both a dark and consuming crime thriller and a lyrical, poetic ode to the sea, We Were the Salt of the Sea is a stunning, page-turning novel, from one of the most exciting new names in crime fiction.
Do you ever start to read a book and then wish it would never end? We Were The Salt of the Sea is that book. Part crime novel, part love song to the sea, it is so beautifully, lyrically, written that you want to stay forever luxuriating in the language until the sea comes to claim you as its own. All the more kudos then, not just to the author, but also the translator, because this is an awesome job.
The Gaspé peninsula is home to a small fishing community whose lives are disrupted from time to time by the arrival of tourists flitting through on their way to something more tacky. It is here that Catherine Day arrives from Montreal in search of her birth mother, Marie Garant, and to gain some knowledge about her birth father.
But Marie Garant is already dead. Also new to this community is Detective Sergeant Joaquin Morales, just arrived and plunged headlong into uncovering what lies behind Marie Garant’s death but no-one in the village is inclined to answer a straight question or volunteer information.
This is a crime novel with a beautifully slow rhythm that captures the essence and atmosphere of this small fishing village with its distinctive and quite beautifully drawn characters that seduce Joaquin into a stupor of indecision.
As Catherine begins to get to know these Gaspesian characters; the ailing, dope smoking Cyrille Bernard; Father LeBlanc with his penchant for wine; Yves Carle, friendly but opaque and his silent wife Therese; Robichaud the Coroner who doubles as a doctor ; Renee Boissoneau the gossiping innkeeper and Vital Bujold and Victor, fishermen, she slowly pieces together the fragments of stories about her mother’s life and the tragedies that have befallen this very beautiful woman whose body has just been brought ashore.
Written in part in the first person for Catherine’s voice and in the third person for the other characters, two of the principal characters have a speech affect that allows the reader immediately to distinguish who is speaking.
As I’ve mentioned, this is very fine writing, but it also has humour and mystery and not a little darkness. A story of love and longing, of murder and madness; it is full of phrases that live in the memory and speak to the human condition. What could be more beautiful than that? This goes straight into the must read category. We Were the Salt of the Sea is another stunner of a novel from Orenda Books, the home of fine writing.
About Roxanne Bouchard
Roxanne Bouchard reads a lot, but she laughs even more.
Ten years or so ago, Roxanne Bouchard decided it was time
she found her sea legs. So she learned to sail, first on the
St Lawrence River, before taking to the open waters off the
Gaspé Peninsula. The local fishermen soon invited her
aboard to reel in their lobster nets, and Roxanne saw for
herself that the sunrise over Bonaventure never lies. We
Were the Salt of the Sea is her fifth novel, and her first to
be translated into English. She lives in Quebec.
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