My grateful thanks to Emma at Damppebbles Blog Tours for inviting me to participate in the launch celebrations for In the Sweep of the Bay by Cath Barton. I’m delighted to share my review today.
In the Sweep of the Bay
This warm-hearted tale explores marriage, love, and longing, set against the majestic backdrop of Morecambe Bay, the Lakeland Fells, and the faded splendour of the Midland Hotel.
Ted Marshall meets Rene in the dance halls of Morecambe and they marry during the frail optimism of the 1950s. They adopt the roles expected of man and wife at the time: he the breadwinner at the family ceramics firm, and she the loyal housewife. But as the years go by, they find themselves wishing for more…
After Ted survives a heart attack, both see it as a new beginning… but can a faded love like theirs ever be rekindled?
“A tender and moving study of a marriage” Alison Moore, author of the Booker short listed The Lighthouse.
My Review of In the Sweep of the Bay
Not having read the blurb for In The Sweep of the Bay, I hadn’t realised it is a novella, but I think the length and structure of the book is perfect for its content. I found it a moving and engaging read that drew me in and brought alive the characters between its pages.
Cath Barton has a deft touch in conveying setting. Her descriptions are frequently quite poetic so that the reader can visualise clearly place and detail, and I found the hook of Morecambe and its statue of Eric Morecambe a really clever and effective device, partly because of the underpinning theme that we can indeed choose to bring sunshine into our lives and those of other people – or we can stubbornly refuse to do so. Ted and Rene’s marriage is a bitter-sweet relationship and reading about them had the impact of making me tell my own husband how much I love and appreciate him, because Cath Barton made me question whether I had done so, or had just assumed he knows, in recent times. I think books like In The Sweep of the Bay that affect me personally are some of the most rewarding to read.
In fact, what I enjoyed most about In The Sweep of the Bay was Cath Barton’s wonderful understanding of human lives and relationships. Set against authentic historical eras, she presents the daily lives of Ted and Rene with such compassion that my heart went out to them both as if they were real people. The way their marriage is stretched yet endures is, I feel, reflective if do many post war marriages and I believed every word about their love, their disappointments and their loss of intimacy. I thought this was hugely poignant.
In the Sweep of the Bay is an intimate portrait of a marriage that is incredibly touching, but also an authentic socio-economic history that I found fascinating. So much is packed into this novella that I recommend it most highly. It’s a super read.
About Cath Barton
Cath Barton lives in Abergavenny. She won the New Welsh Writing AmeriCymru Prize for the Novella in 2017 for The Plankton Collector, which was published in September 2018 by New Welsh Review under their Rarebyte imprint. She also writes short stories and flash fiction and, with her critical writing, is a regular contributor to Wales Arts Review. In the Sweep of the Bay is her second novella.