Book Review: Waterline by Ross Raisin
June 24, 2012 18 Comments
Rating: 5/5 stars
Number of pages: 276
First published: 2010 (UK, this US edition: 2012)
I got this book: for review from Harper Perennial, an imprint of HarperCollins
Genre: contemporary fiction
Waterline: What it is about
Description from the publishers: “Meet Mick Little. He used to be a shipbuilder in the Glasgow yards. He used to be married to his beloved Cathy. But the yards closed one after another down the river, and the search for work took him and Cathy to Australia and back again, struggling for a living, longing for home. Thirty years later the yards are nearly vacant and Cathy is dead—his work possibly to blame for her fatal illness. The ties that bound Mick to the past are loosened and now he has to find a new way to live: get a new job, get out of the house where they raised their boys, start again, far from his old life, and forget everything.
In his devastating new novel Ross Raisin brings vividly to life the story of an ordinary man caught between the loss of a great love and the outer reaches of modern existence. Tracing Mick’s journey from the Glasgow shipyards to the crowded, sweating kitchens of an airport hotel to the streets and riversides of London,Waterline is an intensely moving portrait of the alienation of lives lived quietly all around us, and of one man’s existence dissolved—and reclaimed—through the grief of a long journey home.”
Waterline: What I thought
This is a beautiful book. The things in it aren’t pleasant, as Mick has a hard time with the death of his wife. He doesn’t want to live in the Glasgow house where they lived together any longer and moves into the shed in the back garden, before making a more radical move out of Glasgow itself.
Mick’s situation is getting more and more desperate. Not only that, mentally he’s not quite there either. He’s tuned out of society for the most part (at some point he realises that Christmas must have come and gone – months ago – without him noticing). First, he looks at others in similar situations as a by-stander, knowing that he’s not at all like them. But of course, slowly he starts to become one of them and more or less gives up on life.
But his family is still there (his sons and in-laws) who are willing to help if he wants them to. It was so frustrating to see how Mick wanted to stay away from them as much as possible. They reminded him of a better life and he felt ashamed of himself, too. He felt he could not face them for most of the book.
Not a very great deal happens in the book but still it reads quite easily. It’s written beautifully, though, mostly in the form of Mick’s thoughts. As he’s from Glasgow, you’ll find the writing full of the Glaswegian ways of saying things, which takes a little getting used to, but it feels very natural very soon. For instance, “No much” for “Not much” (“No” for “Not” all over, really), sentences ending in “but”: “He would have been the same but.”, “Messages” rather than “Shopping”. Because of the language, it really feels like Mick rather than some third-person narrator speaking and that is quite nice.
I felt like I understood Mick and could easily see how he did what he did (or not do). Ross Raisin put down a very believable character that you hope will find his way in life again.
I think if you read and enjoyed Dirt by David Vann or The Bee-Loud Glade by Steve Himmer, you’ll also enjoy this book. The story in Waterline is less odd, more likely to happen in reality. Also, Mick is socially isolated rather than physically, whereas in the other books, the men are both.
Definitely recommended for lovers of literary fiction!