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Book Review - To The Sea by Christine Dibley

When reality is too hard to process and folklore offers a more likely narrative we turn to it for comfort.

legends have power: the power to calm sailors in terrifying storms, to comfort the lonely wife of a missing fisherman or to sooth the crazed mother of a drowned child

Christine Dibley [W] I want more!

As I closed the book on an overcast rainy Melbourne day, I felt a sense of quite and comfort overcome me. Well, at least that is what I choose to take away from this story.

To the Sea is the debut novel by Christine Dibley and I was fortunate enough to receive it as an advanced reader copy from the publisher.

Zoe Kennett is a breathtakingly beautiful 17 year old girl who has vanished without a trace while snorkelling after a family dinner.

Detective Inspector Tony Vincent is the lead detective who has only five days to find Zoe alive or her body in the bay. As is police procedure Tony is leaving no stone unturned and following any and all possibilities of Zoe’s disappearance. The investigation has him interviewing the people Zoe was with last and people she was closest to.

The search has him listening to some very interesting stories about Zoe, her life and other women in her family. Before long he is enthralled in the world where myth and history blur and where he has to determine the fine line between truth and consequence.

I really loved this book!

The beginning of the book set’s the scene of a very broken family dynamic. A family plagued with emotional turbulence and mental illness through several generations. It makes it a mission to truly understand weather the circumstances leading to Zoe’s disappearance were caused by a genetic predisposition to mental illness or weather there is some truth to the old myths her mother is sharing with the DI Tony.

Getting to know the family through Tonys eyes, I have to say I truly hated them all. I wanted to shake them and ask why it took them this long to call the police? Why didn’t any one really know much about Zoe? What she wore, what she did? How could they neglect their little sister this much?

They were so self absorbed in their own lives and the resentment they felt toward their own mother, Eva. I was almost thinking that they were punishing Zoe because she got more love from Eva then any of them ever did.

It isn’t until I read Eva’s story, or Ornice’s story to be precise, that my firm belief that Eva was suffering from a mental illness swayed.

Stories of selchies and even stranger sea creatures were told late at night with shakes of grey heads and frantic crossings of trembling bosoms. Saints preserve us.

I absolutely love the fact that everyone who knows of the story won’t voice their true opinion of it. It’s almost like the acknowledgement of the possibility that they believe in it would cement their own sanity or insanity.

“Have you ever seen Zoe do any of the things suggested in the story? Asked Tony into the dimming room. “No” said John. “Do you believe your wife’s story?”….. “Do you believe my wife’s story, Detective?”

The story weaves a fine line between reality and belief of old folk tales and it leaves you wondering weather this is all a figment of Eva’s imagination or if it truly has come to pass.

There was no evidence to support her belief but beliefs don’t need evidence. They require fait, and Zoe had found her faith in Mayo. But unlike the truly devout, she wasn’t satisfied with faith alone.

I have so many thoughts and questions after reading this book that I’ll be posting a Book Talk on the book and I would love you to come back to it, once you have read the book, and let me know your thought and theories.

By the end of the book you are forced to make your own mind up and decide weather there is some truth to the old stories told by Eva or if it is all just ramblings or a grieving, mentally unstable mother.

I have drown my own conclusions and you’ll have to read about them in my next post

Published by Pan Macmillan.

AUSTRALIA: Booktopia | iTunes | Kindle

WORLDWIDE: Book Depository | Kobo

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