Magazine article The Spectator

The Wonderful Edge of the Sea

Magazine article The Spectator

The Wonderful Edge of the Sea

Article excerpt

THE HIGHEST TIDE by Jim Lynch Bloomsbury, £10.99, pp. 256, ISBN 0747578443 . £8.79 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655

There are some classic novels about a boy growing up -- Great Expectations and Kes spring to mind. Well, here is another. The Highest Tide is one of the best novels it has been my pleasure to read for many a day. And its cover is one of the worst it has been my misfortune to see. The author has been so badly served by this ugly, ill-drawn mess that if you have any sense you will buy it immediately and rejacket it in brown paper, as we did with our textbooks. But buy it you should. It is lyrical, moving, funny and breathtakingly well written.

Miles O'Malley is almost 14 and becoming aware of the fact, but there are far more important things in his life than puberty, though his friends would have him believe otherwise. He lives on the flats of Puget Sound and is in love with the creatures there. Rachel Carson, the 1950s author of The Edge of the Sea, is his heroine.

Marine life obsesses Miles and Lynch writes about the boy's nights in his kayak, slowly crossing the bay under the moon, seeing a myriad magical sea creatures quite wonderfully. One test of a great novel is that you begin to see the world through the author's eyes. Another is that you want to live in his book and The Highest Tide passes both. I even dreamed about it.

On one moonlit expedition, Miles sees something he cannot believe he is really seeing:

I saw fragments, pieces and tried to fuse them in my mind but couldn't be certain of the whole. I knew what it had to be but I wouldn't allow myself to even think the two words. Then I gradually realised the dark shiny disc in the middle of the rubbery mass was too perfectly round to be mud or a reflection. It was too late to smother my scream. Its eye was the size of a hubcap. …

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