Ben Oliver

Now
book

Summerwater

You have to expect rain here but not usually like this.
14 September 2020

A novel set in a small group of log cabins around a loch at the height of summer with typical Scottish weather—endless rain.

It’s impressive that this book, in many ways about lockdown (but in no way about a virus) managed to get turned around so quickly. It’s also impressive that it isn’t the usual sprawling, bitter mess that ‘sign of the times’ books often are.

Moss devotes each chapter to one character’s inner monologue, over-thinking each action in a third person voice at breakneck speed. Her knack for polyphonic writing is key to the success of the novel, the prose rings so true that the hand of the author fades away a few pages in.

There’s a sneaky sense of humour that runs through the novel though, shared by all its characters (who, I should note, don’t all know each other). Everyone has come to the loch to escape the noise and anxieties of their lives, but they just make more for themselves on arrival.

To add to that, amidst the flow of inner thoughts Moss develops some sort of action. Little things start to go wrong. There are tiny signs that something ‘big’ might be about to happen. A running-addicted woman feels heart problems rearing up. A little girl’s shoe appears. A boy goes out in a kayak and struggles to get back.

Moss refuses to focus on these things, toying with the reader. But in the background, the tension and anxiety builds. It’s like a roller-coaster slowly making its way up to the top, waiting for the drop, but you’ve got someone really funny and interesting next to you trying to distract you from your fate. Before you know it you’ve gone over the edge, and the book ends.