Title: We Were the Salt of the Sea
Author: Roxanne Bouchard
Translated by: David Warriner
Publisher: Orenda Books
Publication Date: 28 February 2018
Website: roxannebouchard.com & www.orendabooks.co.uk
Twitter: @RBouchard72 & @OrendaBooks
Category/Genre: Literary/Crime Fiction
Thank you to Anne Cater and Orenda Books for inviting me to take part in the blog tour for We Were the Salt of the Sea by Roxanne Bouchard.
Truth lingers in murky waters…
As Montrealer Catherine Day sets foot in a remote fishing village and starts asking around about her birth mother, the body of a woman dredges up in a fisherman’s nets. Not just any woman, though: Marie Garant, an elusive, nomadic sailor and unbridled beauty who once tied many a man’s heart in knots. Detective Sergeant Joaquin Morales, newly drafted to the area from the suburbs of Montreal, barely has time to unpack his suitcase before he’s thrown into the deep end of the investigation.
On Quebec’s outlying Gaspé Peninsula, the truth can be slippery, especially down on the fishermen’s wharves. Interviews drift into idle chit-chat, evidence floats off with the tide and the truth lingers in murky waters. It’s enough to make DS Morales reach straight for a large whisky…
Both a dark and consuming crime thriller and a lyrical, poetic ode to the sea, We were the Salt of the Sea is a stunning, page-turning novel, from one of the most exciting new names in crime fiction.
We Were the Salt of the Sea is a unique tale. It explores the reactions of a community to the beautiful yet elusive Marie Garant. To the villagers she is a siren, appearing out of the blue after months on the water, bringing life to the quiet village before disappearing again just as suddenly, leaving a trail of havoc and broken hearts in her wake. Starting in 1974 and concluding in 2007, the story has its roots firmly in the past, with Marie Garant’s influence stretching across those decades.
The tale has two main strands: a woman’s search for her birth mother; and, a police officer’s investigation into a murder. Oddly, the answer to each of these questions proves fairly irrelevant. It is the journey that the tale takes us on to find those answers which is important. The tale itself starts off quite slowly before settling into a pacier flow. The story explores a number of themes, including loyalty, lost opportunities and living for the moment. It explains to us the importance of properly knowing ourselves and understanding our own motivations and moral limits.
One of the joys of this tale are the quirky characters, my favourite being the wonderfully pragmatic fisherman, Cyrille. I particularly liked the repetitive sayings that Bouchard attributes to different characters, such Vital Bujold’s frequent exclamations of ‘Christ on a chalice’, Dr Robichaud’s habit of starting every sentence with “You ought to understand” and Renaud’s “Let me tell you“. This adds to the personalisation of those supporting characters whilst also introducing a slight light-heartedness to the tale. There were other phrases and sayings peppered throughout the story which you can’t help but notice and smile. Bouchard really does have a way with words.
The main characters, Catherine and Morales, are wonderfully flawed. Their time in Caplan forces them into a period of introspection, forcing them to look for the meaning in their lives and to consider their futures. Catherine and Morales are, neither of them, particularly likeable characters yet their stories are quite compelling.
It took me a couple of chapters to really engage with the writing, however I quickly found myself getting to grips with the lyrical style of the prose and thereafter enjoying the graceful flow of the narrative. There are some wonderful descriptions and imagery throughout the story, particularly when the author talks about the sea. Whilst I would like to think that this reflects Bouchard’s writing-style in her native French tongue, I am unsure how much should be attributed to the translator. Either way, it is a beautifully written and very evocative tale, giving the reader a real sense of place. You can almost hear the ripples of the waves, see the cobalt blue of the seat and smell the salt in the air.
To me, We Were the Salt of the Sea is not so much a psychological thriller but rather more of a literary crime novel. It is a unique and wonderfully written tale, and one which is very much worth reading.
About the Author
Ten years or so ago, Roxanne Bouchard decided it was time she found her sea legs. So she learned to sail, first on the St Lawrence River, before taking to the open waters off the Gaspé Peninsula. The local fishermen soon invited her aboard to reel in their lobster nets, and Roxanne saw for herself that the sunrise over Bonaventure never lies. We Were the Salt of the Sea is her fifth novel, and her first to be translated into English. She lives in Quebec.
At the time of writing this review, the book was priced at 99p for the Kindle edition, so if you’ve not already read it, now is the perfect time to do so.
And don’t forget to check out the rest of the blog tour, as listed below: