Bride of the Sea

If you like the sea, especially bordering isolated northern islands, this novel might appear to you. It’s atmospheric and literary with beautiful descriptions of the light, the beach and the Atlantic. Throughout the book, the sea is more threatening than warming.

It’s also very similar to a modern fairy tale.  A literature professor, who by the way studies fairy tales, falls in love with his young student. He invents an end-of-term party to get to know her better and then begins to date her. In fine restaurants, she is half-wild and licks her fingers and then his while eating lobster.  She is mum about her past and her family.  She often arrives with wet hair that is so blond it looks white; he later discovers that she has webbed feet. They marry, but without any family or friends to witness it. Her choice of a honeymoon spot is the wild Orkney coast where it is cold, rainy and remote.

Richard is obsessed with his young wife who is never named.  Instead of working on his new book, he gazes at her through their vacation cottage’s wide windows. She spends most of her days outside wandering the beach or just watching the sea.  Nights they have sex, and then she wakes up terrified by her dreams.

It’s a haunting, somewhat mystical book written in the most beautiful language. It’s about marriage—what do we share in one, what do we reserve from the union, keep apart?  The professor is so smitten with his much younger wife that one suspects that it can’t possibly end well. The village storekeeper and Mrs. Odie who drops by to clean greet the professor with either know-it-all looks or suspicious ones.  This novel will transport you to a Scottish island where life has not really changed for centuries.  Not much happens in the book, but it’s still a very enjoyable journey.

Another psychological thriller that you might enjoy is Howard Norman’s The Bird Artist, which is set on the bleak Newfoundland coast of Canada.