Book Review: Waterline by Ross Raisin

Waterline by Ross Raisin

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!

About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

18 Responses to Book Review: Waterline by Ross Raisin

  1. breieninpeking says:

    You made me curious, it’s now on my shoppinglist for things to buy in the UK while I’m there.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Oh, lovely, Karin. A shopping list for England! A bookshop-shopping list. I used to go for the 3 for 2s in Waterstone’s but now they don’t do that any more, I never know what to buy (besides: everything).

      • breieninpeking says:

        We visit bookshops where we go, looking for Judo-, knitting- and cookbooks, and yes, novels, detectives and literature.

  2. Another one to add to my pile, Judith. Thanks! 🙂

  3. That sounds like a heartbreaking but interesting read. You hear about people that just reach their limit. Even I yesterday was telling my husband that I was done with people. 🙂

  4. MoniqueReads says:

    Sounds interesting. I am going to put this one on my list.
    Thanks for sharing.

  5. Marie says:

    I’m reading God’s Own Country by Ross Raisin at the moment and am really loving the way it’s written in Yorkshire dialect, the character just springs to life. So if this is done similarly in Glaswegian dialect I am sure it will be fantastic. May well have to add it to my wishlist!

  6. JoV says:

    I was offered a free copy of this but I didn’t choose it. I may have trouble with Glasgowian dialect, or anything with dialect for that matter, so not sure if it suits me but I’m happy you like it so much!

    • Leeswammes says:

      Jo, the accent wasn’t a big problem. It took a little time to get used to but it felt really suitable for Mick to have the dialect. Don’t worry about it – I’m not from Scotland, either. 😉

  7. Mystica says:

    Thanks for such a nice review.

  8. Pingback: Sunday Caught My Interest « Reflections from the Hinterland

  9. EastEndLass says:

    I think i’ll stick it on my ever-growing ‘To Read’ list 🙂

  10. Pingback: It’s a wrap : July 2012 « JoV's Book Pyramid

I love comments! Let me know what you think.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: