It’s my pleasure to be part of the blog tour for In The Sweep of The Bay, a novella by Cath Barton that was published on 23rd November. Many thanks to Emma Welton of Damppebbles Blog Tours for the blog tour invite and review copy of the book.
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
As you can probably tell from the pics accompanying this review, I’ve got a huge soft spot for Morecambe and have visited a few times to see the statue and eat fish and chips! I’ve even stayed at The Midland Hotel (who did allow our dog in despite what happened to the customer in this novella!!) and attended the Morecambe and Vice crime festival there. So I was really keen to read a book set around the stunning scenery of this part of Lancashire. And what a beautifully written, understanding novella this is-full of that initial hope and intrigue of a newly married couple who are bound by the terms of the society they lived in at that time. It’s a story of love, family, hidden desires and duty-all revolving around the statue of Eric Morecambe that stands on the front, larger than life and still smiling no matter what goes on around him.
I loved how, after an initial introduction which brought unnamed characters to Eric, we follow the lives of a married couple through the decades watching the highs and lows of their relationship. It was an emotional journey at times and I often wanted some honesty between them-an in-depth communication to put aside all the misunderstandings and the things that were left unsaid. But saying that, this perfectly portrays marriage during those years-especially the way Ted calls Rene “Mum” as soon as they become parents even when they are older and the children aren’t even there. It’s a generational thing and that somehow made these characters seem so much more realistic in their habits and reactions.
In The Sweep Of The Bay is just so beautifully written that it left me wanting so much more from Cath Barton. She has a natural storytelling ability that flows through her narrative, building her characters around her vividly described setting until they become part of the scenery. I can’t wait to see what she delivers next!
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.