A pleasure today to share my review of The Wave by Virginia Moffatt: already available for kindle, this intriguing book is published in paperback today (5th September) by One More Chapter. My thanks to the publishers for providing my e-copy for review, via netgalley.
I had the pleasure of discovering Virginia’s writing back in February 2018 when I read and reviewed her excellent debut novel, Echo Hall, published by Unbound: you’ll find my review here. She was also my guest in December 2017 with an excellent post on writing fictional landscapes: you can read that one again here. But when Virginia contacted me to alert me about her new book, she was careful to point out out that “it’s a very different book from Echo Hall” – and indeed it is! Let’s take a closer look…
Tonight they’ll share their darkest secrets, but tomorrow, there is no escape…
A devastating tsunami is heading towards the Cornish coast. With no early warning and limited means of escape, many people won’t get away in time.
While the terrifying reality of the news hits home, one young woman posts a message on Facebook, ‘With nowhere to run to, I’m heading to my favourite beach to watch the sunset, who wants to join me?’ A small group of people follow her lead and head towards the beach; each of them are harbouring their own stories – and their own secrets.
As they come together in the dying light of the Cornish sunset, they will discover something much more powerful than they ever imagined. But there is no escaping the dawn… the wave is coming…
The publishers really have used all the right words – “haunting, scarily real and brilliantly executed”, “the heart-stopping novel that everyone will be talking about”. But what intrigued me was what the book was “about” – I notice “psychological thriller” in its categorisation, and with the approaching tsunami I guess you could reasonably add “pre-apocalyptic”. I did think that might just put it rather outside my reading comfort zone, but I was pleased to discover that it most emphatically didn’t: and that’s because its focus is on people, their interactions and relationships, their pasts and their regrets, their choices and priorities when they realise there’s no possibility of a future.
The concept is very clever – when escape becomes impossible, a random group of people respond to Poppy’s Facebook invitation to spend their last night with her at Dowetha Cove. In many ways, it could be seen as a story about and for the young – there’s a heavy focus on social media interactions, the good, the bad and the recognisably ugly. But it’s more a story for our times, with the phones, the iPads, the Skype calls, and the posting of videos on Facebook providing the group with the means to right wrongs, to assuage their guilt, to forgive and to seek forgiveness, and to say their final goodbyes to those they love.
I liked the story’s construction, around the Liturgy of the Hours, the prayer cycle marking time and the way it’s running out. The story progresses by seeing events from the viewpoint and through the eyes of each of its seven characters: and that does mean there’s a degree of repetition, overlapping and returning, that might not appeal to everyone. But I did rather enjoy that constant circling – a little dizzying at times maybe, but with the different perspectives and distinctive voices fleshing out the characters and focusing on what is most important to each of them. And as time passes, the characters who started the journey become multi-dimensional, their stories fascinating, their remaining dilemmas and actions poignant and emotional.
Although I was totally engrossed by this book, I didn’t love it unconditionally – the arguments about politics and life’s issues, the abstract rather than the personal, did make me wonder whether anyone would afford them so much importance during their final hours. And I did rather question whether I’d be outraged by Facebook trolls, blocking them as I was facing death. But that’s one of the things that makes this book so fascinating – it becomes painfully personal, and an intense experience. You find yourself questioning what you would do if in their position. Faced with a similar time frame, what would become important to you? Is there anything you’d want to put right? Who would you feel the need to talk to? And who would you really want to say goodbye to – and tell them that you loved them?
About the author
Virginia Moffatt was born in London, one of eight children, several of whom are writers. Her eldest brother writes about theology and politics , one sister is a poet, a second a translator and her twin is a successful author.
Virginia has always been a writer but began to take it seriously only in 2004, when she first had the idea for her first novel, Echo Hall. In 2009, she set up her blog, A Room of My Own, where she publishes flash fiction, short essays and reflections about writing and reading.
Virginia also writes on political and faith issues. She has recently edited a collection of essays, Reclaiming the Common Good: How Christians can help rebuild a broken world, published by Darton, Longman and Todd in 2017. Her Lent course, Nothing More, And Nothing Less, based around the film I, Daniel Blake, was published by the same publisher later in 2017.
After working in social care for 30 years, Virginia left local government to work for the Christian think-tank Ekklesia in 2014 . She currently works for a multi-academy trust as a procurement and contracts manager. Virginia is married to Chris Cole, director of Drone Wars UK. Two of their children are now at University, the third lives with them at their home in Oxford.