Saturday, 22 July 2017

The Watery Part of the World - Michael Parker

Here's an odd one.  My, I found it difficult to read - it hops about in time a bit, and whilst I usually enjoy that kind of novel, this one took some sticking to; and to be honest, at first  I only wanted to read it because it is set on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and having been there on holiday a few years ago, this one captured my interest.

But read it I did, and found it rather unsettling, but also haunting and beautiful.  The book starts with the shipwreck and survival of Theodosia Burr, daughter of a former US vice president, Aaron Burr.  She is on her way to meet him in New York when the ship is taken by pirates, and she is the only person left alive. She's eventually rescued by someone in the pay of the pirate captain, Daniels, who's land HQ is at Nags Head on the Outer Banks.  Her rescuer eventually frees her from Daniels, and takes her, secretly, to a small island further down the Banks.  There they live for some years, eventually becoming lovers, she bearing him several children.  That's the historic part of the book.

In the present, two sisters, descendants of Theodosia are the last two white people on the same island, together with a black couple, who they have known all their lives.  How eventually they are all gone from the island is really the entire heart of the book.

I said at the beginning that I found it difficult to read.  Well, I had to concentrate a little more than usual, although that didn't make it a bad read.  Not at all, it was certainly worth the time spent.  You can use Google Earth to look at this part of the world - and if you type in Nags Head Outer Banks North Carolina you will find yourself looking at the Outer Banks, and you will understand the title of the book.  Scroll down a little until you find Morehead, on the mainland, and between those two points the book is set.

By the way, Aaron Burr existed.  His daughter Theodosia also, and she was lost at sea (or not, if you choose to stick with the fiction of the book!).

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