ShortBookandScribes #BookReview – In the Sweep of the Bay by Cath Barton #novella
Today I’m sharing my thoughts about In the Sweep of the Bay by Cath Barton. This is a fabulous little read. It’s not out until November but I understand the publisher, Louise Walters Books, has some early copies available in her bookshop, which is where my copy came from.
This lyrical, warm-hearted tale explores marriage, love, and longing, set against the majestic backdrop of Morecambe Bay, the Lakeland Fells, and the faded splendour of the Midland Hotel.
Ted Marshall meets Rene in the dancehalls of Morecambe and they marry during the frail optimism of the 1950s. They adopt the roles expected of man and wife at the time: he the breadwinner at the family ceramics firm, and she the loyal housewife, but as the years go by, they both find themselves wishing for more…
After Ted survives a heart attack, both see it as a new beginning… but can a faded love like theirs ever be rekindled?
In the Sweep of the Bay is a quick read of just over 100 pages but my goodness it is chock full of life and is the perfect study of family life over the decades. The first line is one that had me intrigued straightaway:
When they put up the statue in 1999, they advertised for someone to look after it.
I won’t divulge the subject of the statue but it forms a kind of marker for certain scenes in the book. The main characters are Ted and Rene, married in the 1950s when people were expected to gravitate towards a future husband or wife and stick with them. I found their story really rather moving and thought-provoking. There are other characters in the book who at times take centre stage, but it is Ted and Rene who form the mainstay of the tale.
Cath Barton has a really thoughtful and gentle writing style. She writes of relationships, commitments, the pull of family responsibility against happiness in life overall. This book is a mini social history following the characters over the decades and I loved how the author weaved together home life, work life and the events of the times so eloquently. Ted works for the family ceramics factory whilst Rene stays at home relying on his housekeeping money to run the home. Her dissatisfaction is palpable, a victim of her time, but I truly felt for Ted, a genuinely good man.
This is a wonderful read, both heart-warming and heart-breaking. I hope to read more of Cath Barton’s intelligent and tender writing in the future.
Cath lives in Abergavenny, Wales. She won the New Welsh Writing AmeriCymru Prize for the Novella in 2017 for The Plankton Collector, which was published in September 2018 by New Welsh Review under their Rarebyte imprint.
Her second novella In the Sweep of the Bay will be published in November 2020 by LWB.