After many years I had excised myself from the life I had led in town, just as one might cut a figure out of a landscape or group photo. Abashed by the harm I had wreaked on the picture left behind, and unsure where the cut-out might end up next, I lived a provisional existence. I did so in a place where I knew none of my neighbours, where the street names, views, smells and faces were all unfamiliar to me, in a cheaply appointed flat where I would be able to lay my life aside.' In River, a woman moves to a London suburb for reasons that are unclear. She takes long, solitary walks by the River Lea, observing and describing her surroundings and the unusual characters she encounters. Over the course of these wanderings she amasses a collection of found objects and photographs and is drawn into reminiscences of the different rivers which haunted the various stages of her life, from the Rhine, where she grew up, to the Saint Lawrence, the Hooghly, and the banks of the Oder. Written in language that is as precise as it is limpid, River is a remarkable novel, full of poignant images and poetic observations, an ode to nature, edgelands, and the transience of all things human.
Rivers provide settings for this meditative, melancholy novel from Kinsky (Summer Resort) in which an unnamed narrator's observations of flora and fauna, immigrants, outsiders, and displaced persons, are presented like photographs for review and reflection. The novel begins after the narrator abandons her London job to move into a neighborhood at the city's edge. Unsure where she will go next, she walks along marshes and inlets, takes pictures (photographs accompany the text), collects small objects, and recalls the past: childhood in postwar Germany; motherhood in Canada; witness to calm or flooding waters in Poland, Hungary, Croatia, India, and Israel. Like her neighbors a Jewish greengrocer, a Pakistani who runs an internet caf , a Croat who runs a shop for Bosnian refugees, an exiled African King the narrator feels her foreignness. Kinsky's lyrical prose includes descriptions of barges, houseboats, tree stumps, an office full of cubbyholes, and a street filled with religious celebrants. Chronology and story line remain elusive in a sometimes disjointed, sometimes gloomy narrative, as Kinsky focuses not on connecting events but on capturing relationships: between photography and memory, disaster and loss, water and yearning for home.