A BEST BOOK OF JANUARY: O Magazine
A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR in the UK: The Guardian, The Times
“[Moss] writes beautifully about... souls in tumult, about people whose lives have not turned out the way they’d hoped. . .There’s little doubt, reading Moss, that you’re in the hands of a sophisticated and gifted writer." —Dwight Garner, The New York Times
The acclaimed author of Ghost Wall offers a new, devastating, masterful novel of subtle menace
They rarely speak to each other, but they take notice—watching from the safety of their cabins, peering into the half-lit drizzle of a Scottish summer day, making judgments from what little they know of their temporary neighbors. On the longest day of the year, the hours pass nearly imperceptibly as twelve people go from being strangers to bystanders to allies, their attention forced into action as tragedy sneaks into their lives.
At daylight, a mother races up the mountain, fleeing into her precious dose of solitude. A retired man studies her return as he reminisces about the park’s better days. A young woman wonders about his politics as she sees him head for a drive with his wife, and tries to find a moment away from her attentive boyfriend. A teenage boy escapes the scrutiny of his family, braving the dark waters of the loch in a kayak. This cascade of perspective shows each wrapped up in personal concerns, unknown to each other, as they begin to notice one particular family that doesn’t seem to belong. Tensions rise, until nightfall brings an irrevocable turn.
From Sarah Moss, the acclaimed author of Ghost Wall—a “riveting” (Alison Hagy, The New York Times Book Review) “sharp tale of suspense” (Margaret Tablot, The New Yorker), Summerwater is a searing exploration of our capacity for kinship and cruelty, and a gorgeous evocation of the natural world that bears eternal witness.
Moss's taut latest (after Ghost Wall) turns a rain-drenched park in the Scottish Highlands into a site of tension and unease for a group of vacationing strangers. The book opens with a middle-aged woman going for a run in the early morning, her family still asleep in their rented cabin. As she follows the trail past an illegally pitched tent, she considers the trope of a dangerous man in the woods. From here on out, each chapter introduces a new point of view among the mix of English tourists and Scots who watch and pass judgment upon one another without interacting, and situations such as a teenage boy's ill-advised kayak trip across a rough loch and a teenage girl's sneaking out at night keep the reader wondering if this is the kind of book where the worst thing will happen. As the noises of late-night revelry from one cabin draw attention from all others, many of whom describe its dwellers wrongly as "foreign" or "those Romanians," the suspense builds. Meanwhile, a series of lyrical interludes describing the park's elements of nature and eons of evolution provide delightfully ironic contrasts to the small human dramas. Readers unafraid of a bit of rain will relish this.