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A novel about the sea, and those who sail on her

2nd April 2018

We Were the Salt of the Sea by Roxanne Bouchard – a novel about the sea and those who sail on her.

A novel about the sea

Catherine was born on a sailboat in the village of Mont-Louis on the St Lawrence River. Her mother, who had been away sailing the world solo for months, had gone into labour 10 days early – before she could reach her intended destination of Montréal. When she had recovered from the birth, she carried on to Montréal where she left Catherine in the care of two friends, architects who couldn’t have children of their own. She returned to sea. This all happened in 1974.

Fast forward to 2007. Catherine receives a letter, leaves behind her life in Montréal and heads for the Gaspé Peninsula at the mouth of the St Lawrence, to the fishing village of Caplan where her mother, Marie Garant, had come from. She is determined to track her down and find out about her history. Soon after her arrival, though, her mother’s drowned body is brought to shore – she had disappeared from her sailboat (after another long period away), and been caught in fishermen’s nets, when only hours from Caplan. Detective Joaquin Moralès (a Mexican who moved to Canada when he got married) investigates.

We Were the Salt of the Sea is, though, anything but a conventional whodunit. Every man in the village seems to have been in love with Marie, and awaiting her return. The plot exposes the rivalry and feuds that exist in a small community. Who is related to whom? And why do they behave as they do? Everyone seems to have suffered through the drowning of a relative at some stage… They are absolutely fascinating and well-drawn characters, from the fisherman, to the priest, to the restaurant owner, to the undertakers.

The key character is, though, the sea itself. In all its moods it dominates the story.

‘It’s stronger than we are. We step aboard and cast the world away because we harbour the infinite within and the horizon is our only answer’.

Roxanne Bouchard is an exciting and refreshing talent. She has written a moving and enthralling book that brilliantly captures life in an isolated fishing village. It is beautifully translated from the French by David Warriner.

Tony for the TripFiction team

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