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Candy Neubert's

Big Low Tide

Candy Neubert is the author of the poetry collection Island and the novel, Foreign Bodies. She lives in Devon and maintains strong ties with South Africa where she lived from 1990 -1996. Her poetry has received numerous awards and prizes including the Cardiff International Poetry prize, 2006 and the Bridport Poetry prize, 2005. Her work has featured widely in magazines and anthologies including Rialto, Poetry Review, Poetry London and the TLS.

In Candy Neubert's novel Big Low Tide, set on a small island in the Channel, Brenda, a feisty barmaid at the local pub suddenly finds herself raising her two young boys alone as her estranged husband, Peter, realizing he can't take the children with him leaves for Ireland in search of better prospects and a trip at sea. Worn down by the constant struggle and pregnant with a third child whose father is nowhere to be seen, Brenda's spark begins to dwindle and her children become more and more unruly. No longer able to cope she moves in with her sister in law, Elsa, who without warning walks out one day leaving the run of the house to Brenda. Seeing Brenda's slow decline, a friend persuades Peter to return and soon after on a wild and windy night, her youngest son disappears. As they search for the boy little do they know how close they are to finding something dark and terrible. This is a powerful story of reconciliation, hope and the wreckage of relationships broken, its dark undercurrents proving all is rarely as it first may seem.

I haven't read any of Candy's work before, so I wasn't sure quite what to expect. Candy is known as a poet, as well as a novelist, and her writing certainly has that spark of the poetic. She describes the landscape of the island very well, and the reader has a strong sense of this closed community where everyone knows everyone else's business. Her writing is atmospheric and descriptive, and though the story didn't move as quickly as I had anticipated, the quality of the writing more than makes up for it. As a reader I had the impression that the novel was very carefully crafted, with close attention paid to every sentence and word choice.

Her real strength is in her ability to conjure such believable characters. Peter is the doting father, a man scarred by the breakdown of his relationship with Brenda. Brenda is injured, hurt and withdrawn, let down by a new man she believed she had a future with. The pain these characters experience is tangible, and the book has a melancholy tone, which never quite leaves you.