In the Sweep of the Bay by Cath Barton

In the Sweep of the Bay is a novella written by Cath Barton and published by indie press Louise Walters Books.

Novellas can be a tough sell, along with short stories, and I really wish this wasn’t the case. I have reviewed quite a few novellas, with some suggestions below. I often stress just how much of a punch they pack in such a short number of pages.

In the Sweep of the Bay covers a lifetime of marriage across 60 years in just 104 pages. It conveys so many emotions and feelings – tenderness, sadness, disappointment, love. Although we move from episode to episode of Ted and Rene’s marriage, we get a full picture of their characters.

We meet Ted and Rene as young adults in the dancehalls of Morcambe Bay.  The story follows their courtship, wedding, marriage, children and roles as breadwinning husband and hardworking housewife. It becomes clear that they lack the skills to communicate with each other, and their married life is distant. They are both extremely unconfrontational. All the questions left unasked, unanswered, all of the feelings unexpressed and unexplored, build a wall between them.

I found myself willing Ted and Rene to talk to each other, especially over innocent misunderstandings.  Several of these small instances cleverly make up story threads that interweave along the way. I felt sad for them and the life they choose to cling to, or felt they could not leave. Again, I find novellas can be very moving because they deliver such concentrated information and then leave you to unpick your feelings in the aftermath.

While In the Sweep of the Bay may not be the happiness and light you might hope for, for me it is very good drama. Cath has been thoughtful, tender and kind to all of her characters and their choices, and this is well worth a read.

Other novellas I recommend:

Summerwater and Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss
Elly by Maike Wetzel
Loyalties by Delphine de Vigan