Spill Simmer Falter Wither - Sara Baume

Genre: Fiction/Irish Culture
Synopsis: "You find me on a Tuesday, on my Tuesday trip to town. You're sellotaped to the inside pane of the jumble shop window. A photograph of your mangled face and underneath an appeal for a COMPASSIONATE AND TOLERANT OWNER. A PERSON WITHOUT OTHER PETS & WITHOUT CHILDREN UNDER FOUR."  Part Kjersti Skomsvold, part Patrick McCabe, Spill Simmer Falter Wither is a wholly different kind of love story, a conversation almost entirely told from one side, that spans the four seasons echoed in the novel's title.


Review: I had heard a lot about this novel winning/being nominated for several awards, and was really excited to read it. It took me quite a while to pick it up, and so long to read it (despite its relatively short length) that it became one of my first finished reads of 2016 rather than one of the last of 2015.

It's not the kind of book you can rush a reading of; the prose is the entire point, as far as I can tell. It is truly beautiful; Baume writes masterfully and evokes an vivid sense of place and atmosphere with her words.  That said, I expected a story that would make me well up with emotion - there are many 'man and his dog' stories out there, and I think this is the first time one has failed to make me cry. The dog is so peripheral I almost felt like he didn't exist at all, and while the narrator, Ray, perhaps benefitted from the dog's presence, the dog seems little or not at all attached to Ray. Unfortuately, I felt the novel lacked heart. There is only the vaguest hint of a plot; any potential for a sturdy story giving way to reflective, retrospective monologues which, while interesting, are slow moving and largely uninvolving for the reader. By the end, I was indifferent to the only two active characters in the novel.

Additionally, I didn't understand the ending at all. That might be a failing on my part, but the combination of an unexpected twist in such a meandering novel and such an uneventful final ending - none of it worked for me. I found myself distracted from the beautiful prose by my confusion and ultimately came away feeling disinterested and disconnected from the rest of the book.

Worth reading for the pretty writing, but that's about it.

Rating: 3/5

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