Fiction – hardcover; Crack; Page 201; 2020
I don’t think there was ever any doubt that I would like the novel about the writers, London, the River Thames and walking – as seen through the eyes of an Australian woman from Melbourne – but I fell in love more with Anna MacDonald’s Jealous flood than I expected.
I saw this debut novel for the first time Lisa’s blog ANZLitLovers and immediately ordered it directly from the UK-based publishing house Splice. (Unfortunately, I waited a long time for the Covid-19, but when it finally arrived, there was a nice printed note inside offering discounts on future Splice purchases as a thank you for “your support and patience.”)
In a comment I left after Lisa’s review, I said:
My name is written everywhere! I am obsessive walking! I lived in Melbourne! I lived in London, just a short walk from Hammersmith Bridge, and wandered the Thames every day for almost 21 years!
As I started reading the book, another excitement arose and I learned that an unnamed narrator flying to Heathrow from Tullamarine remains in bed on Rowan Road in Hammersmith. My first job in London (1998) was Haymarket Publishing, located at the corner of Rowan Road and Hammersmith Road, and later, when I quit my job but still lived in the area, I walked almost daily through Rowan Road in a tube station or High Street. You could not get a local book.
It also contains many vivid descriptions of the Thames Trail, including Putney, Hammersmith, and Barnes, which I have walked (and cycled) hundreds and hundreds of times. I repatriated in 2019. In June, however, after reading this book, I returned to a place I called home for 20 years. I have to say it was a bit of a frustrating experience.
A mesmerizing tale
The story itself is mesmerizing, written in simple but eloquent prose, and the further you go, the more mesmerizing. It’s almost like diving into someone’s clear dream.
It details the life of a woman from Melbourne, which eases her restlessness while walking.
From mid-adolescence, walking has become one of the ways to scratch itching and has offered a partial remedy for restlessness. I walked the streets of the neighborhood where I grew up and learned to read the terrain as I repeated trips through the same land.
The researcher is working on a “project revolving about water images in Virginia Woolf’s novels and essays.” She has spent some time in London but is now planning a second trip to complete her studies at the British Library.
But when she returns to London, in the nearby town of Hammersmith, her research will expand to include stories of drowning, accidental or deliberate, and cover everything from anecdotes to witness stories. It becomes a mania, until the moment when its perception of reality begins to fluctuate.
A tale of survival
Her story is intertwined with a widow who is thrown into the Thames and rescued by a returned soldier from the Great War. This is an imaginary story told in the third person about a real-life incident mentioned on a board on the Hammersmith Bridge (and, embarrassingly, I never noticed, despite having walked across the bridge hundreds of times):
Lieutenant Charles Campbell Wood RAF of Bloemfontein, South Africa, dived from this location to the Thames in 1919. December 27 At midnight and saved a woman’s life. He died from injuries sustained during the rescue.
These two threads of narrative — about a woman exploring watery ends and another experiencing almost drowning nearly a century earlier — create a deeply contemplative tale rich in metaphors and symbolism that explores how water can be both a refuge and a danger.
The narrator empathizes so much with her work that she allows the story of the woman and the lieutenant, along with many other stories she has discovered, to penetrate into her own narrative. Space and time are starting to lose their meaning. Stories merge and intertwine. It almost feels like a woman needs to get up in the air, free herself from metaphysical drowning. Before ending with a soothing note, it becomes frighteningly claustrophobic.
Note that there is no dialogue in the book, there is no plot next to it, and it is structurally meandering like the River Thames. It really shouldn’t act like a novel. But there is something about short chapters, literary prose, and ideas Jealous flood engaging and persuasive reading.
This is my 22nd book # AWW2021 and 21st # TBR21 book where I planned to read 21 books from my TBR from 2021 onwards. January 1 Until 31 May. Yes, this review is very late as I read this book back in April. , wrote some remarks and then tried to put my thoughts in any order – and even now I’m not entirely happy with what I wrote.
I am a book lover who has been viewing books online as a hobby since 2001. This Reading Matters blog was founded in 2004 and has taken many forms over the last 17 years. I enjoy reading extensively, but there is a special place in my heart for literary fiction from Ireland and Australia.
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