Already the sea is working her charms, tampering with his judgement. Throw yourself overboard, she whispers – why not? Or, take good care of yourself, and I will show you my best dress. The sea makes him feel lonely and yet so very much himself; she makes him gather himself up, a self which has vanished some time ago into the element of air. Overnight, the fluid in his veins is catching up with the fluid and the rhythms of the sea; he feels like the sea appears, placid, powerful.
On the island of Trinidad, floods have destroyed Gavin’s home and wrought havoc on his family. Left to raise his six-year-old daughter, Océan, by himself he’s struggling with work and overwhelming loneliness. When he wakes up one morning he decides he wants to run away; take his boat, his dog and his daughter and sail out into the Caribbean and beyond.
Archipelago has made me want to hire a boat and sail round the Caribbean! Whilst the natural beauty may be a tourism advert, it is balanced by the darker side of the islands, unethical tourism, natural disaster and the seedier side of the locals. The sea itself is both mesmerising and dangerous. And whilst Gavin and Océan are surrounded by beauty, there is an underlying feeling of melancholy and a loss that is rarely talked about.
Océan makes a convincing six-year-old; she is perceptive and curious but not in a way that is beyond her years. She comes out with questions typical to children her age and her sadness is quiet, from someone who is not quite sure what is wrong in her world but knowing it is definitely not right. Despite some of the content, I never found it a depressing read and there are several moments that will bring a smile to your face to counteract the bad. It might be a bit too slow a read for some but if you love books about the sea, I would highly recommend.
From the author of The White Woman on the Green Bicycle, Archipelago is published by Simon & Schuster in the UK and is currently available in hardback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review.