Waves by Jared A Carnie published by Urbane 2016

A great cover by Julia Martin which hinted at something dangerous happening by the sea– it really made me want to read this debut novel by Jared Carnie. And a wonderful setting – the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides with miles of unspoilt countryside, interesting wildlife, solitude and a chance to escape from city life, and everywhere the beauty of the sea.

Enter our hero, Alex who has just been abandoned by Kim, the love of his life but, thanks to his devoted friend, James, has driven up to Scotland to stay with said friend’s family. Pretty soon we’re introduced to a lovely nurse, Isobel – young and single. So, we have characters, plot and setting – all the ingredients for a novel to spur your imagination. We just need to be hooked in and off we go.

By Chapter 4 I was beginning to realise, with a strange sinking feeling, that Waves was not living up to its cover, or its blurb. OK, so I thought, there’s going to be a slow build up then it’s all going to start. But, apart from having showers, eating meals and meeting a few people on the island, very little happened for a long time. Alex worries a lot about situations where he might be awkward and where something might embarrass him and he refers to lots of music without saying what he feels about the music.

It isn’t until he has spent a day visiting a beach alone that we get to the crux of the novel – and Alec’s epiphany. He realises that the sea is always changing into ‘different forms and patterns’ and he suddenly feels guilty at wasting opportunities. Later, in a conversation with Isobel he describes his life without his girlfriend, Kim:

‘All I had was this empty room. I completely forgot that I could leave the room.’ He just needs to be brave enough to step outside. It takes a long time to reach this point and, although the image of the room is very strong, the realisation hasn’t really been earned.

Following on from a day where Isobel has shown him around the island and they’ve finished off the day with crisps and Irn-Bru whilst watching ‘Deal or no deal’ on TV, Alex starts to tell James about his day:

‘It felt like loads had happened. It was only once I started talking that I realised I didn’t really have any story to tell. My words trickled off lamely.’

In the telling of Waves, Jared Carnie may well be in the same situation.


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