Quiet novel set mainly in NEW YORK
By Ruth Khan
Seahorses is a retro exploration of falling in love, drinking tea, family and village life, and grief, set in an England that existed for a long, hot, perfect summer in the 70s.
It is June 1976. Robin is 21 years old and has just graduated from Exeter University with a first in Information Technology. He is bright, self-effacing and ambitious. He has his sights set on joining a young company in America which makes computers. He’s on his way to Newquay with his two friends, Mitch and Andy, for a couple of weeks of sun, surfing and girls before he looks for a job. They stop at Tintagel and Robin meets Anna, a 19-year-old local girl who is obsessed with seahorses. She dives to see them and then paints what she sees – she is a talented but untrained artist. Anna has led a quiet but intellectually rich life with her grandfather in the old stone family cottage, perched on the cliffs near Tintagel. She works part-time in the local pub. Her mother died of cancer when she was a baby and she has no recollection of her father.
They fall intensely in love and lust, fuelled by that year’s record-breaking heat wave. She gets pregnant and they marry and have the baby. Shortly afterwards they have another one and are loving and happy parents who still maintain the sexual passion they felt for each other when they first met. They live a happy life together and Anna is planning another exhibition of work based on depictions of her daughters. They decide to have another child.
Anna dies in a freak accident one day in July 1979 when a plane crashes into the village (based on a true event which happened a week after I visited Tintagel when I was 14 and which proved to be the inspiration for the book). She is the only casualty. Robin goes to pieces and it’s only thanks to his family and extended family, particularly Anna’s grandfather, that he is able to cope with the loss of the love of his life. It’s a poignant echo of the seahorses which Anna is obsessed with, and a heartbreaking reflection of her own life, having grown up without a mother. It also mirror’s Anna’s grandfather’s experience – implying that patterns can unwittingly and tragically pass down through generations.
The end of the book sees Robin looking back and filling in the reader about what’s become of the characters during the last forty years. He never found love again and still yearns for Anna.
Seahorses is spoken alternately by Robin and Anna (his voice remembers the past and hers tells it as it happens, in ‘real time’).
To review this book, please