I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Under the Still Skies

Under the Still Skies

Rohan Maitzen
Summerwater, by Sarah Moss, Picador, 208 pp, £14.99, ISBN: 978-1529035452 “You don’t live your whole life in Scotland to be scared of the rain,” thinks a character in Sarah Moss’s grimly ingenious new novel Summerwater ‑ “but this weather is odd, too much.” The incessant rain is literally dampening for the holiday plans of the cluster of visitors who have come to a remote Scottish cabin park seeking a break from their mundane realities. As the novel’s single day slowly passes, the rain also becomes a metaphor for something equally pervasive, if less tangible: the undercurrent of resentment that eventually binds this contingent community together and turns them against those they perceive as outsiders. The small population of Summerwater thus reveals itself as representative of the larger nation of which it is a sodden subset, finding scapegoats to blame for its own constricting discontent. In this way Summerwater is a fitting sequel to Moss’s previous novel, Ghost Wall, which even more overtly highlighted the destructive potential of xenophobia. While Ghost Wall embodied the threat in a specific character, Summerwater diffuses it and, for much of the novel, submerges it, but this only makes the consequences more horrific because they arise, not from deliberate malice ‑ which at least can be confronted ‑ but from a collective inability to do better. The insidious effects of the characters’ isolation are hardly visible, even to us, until we are shocked by realising how short the distance actually is between a failure of hospitality and a failure of humanity. The novel’s title is a clue to the crisis to come. “She can still do poetry,” reflects Mary, one of the visitors, wandering back through the memories encroaching senility has not yet chased away: Deep asleep, deep asleep, Deep asleep it lies, The still lake of Summerwater Under the still skies … No, Semmerwater, not summerwater, took her ages to remember to say it right …and here she is getting it wrong again sixty years later. Or sixty-five. Once there stood by Semmerwater …  And a lost city in Summerwater — Semmerwater — deep asleep till Doom. In the poem she’s remembering, a city is cursed, drowned, for turning away a beggar unfed. Cause and effect is not as direct in Summerwater, but its chapters, which circle around and cross paths with each other much as the campers do, bring us closer and closer to a similar moment of reckoning. “She sometimes thinks everyone on…

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