Sarah Moss is the author of seven novels and a memoir of her year living in Iceland, Names for the Sea. Her most recent novel, Ghost Wall, was longlisted for the Women’s Prize in 2019. Summerset is a literary novel that has been praised by Hillary Mantel and Jessie Burton.
Summerwater is set over twenty-four hours in the Scottish highlands, in a faded holiday park. It’s the longest day of summer, but the families have little to do except watch the other residents as the rain falls endlessly.
One mother runs in the morning as though she is trying to run away. A retired couple talk about neighbours that have long since departed. A teenage boy decides to brave the loch with his kayak on his own, even though the water is choppy. Some people regret having their holiday in this place, some families are falling apart, while other people are finding a new rhythm in this remote place.
One foreign family draws the attention of the others with their loud parties that go on into the night, making the other’s resentful and irritable with their lack of sleep. Tensions rise as the day progresses, as everyone watches each other, unaware that tragedy will unfold as night falls.
Summerwater is a multi-layered, literary read that brings to life a cast of characters that feel real and fully formed. Although the chapters for each are only short, there is remarkable depth in each, until the surprising, dramatic ending. This is a book to read slowly and savour.
Reviewer: Karen McMillan