Author: Pauline Fisk
Title: Telling the Sea
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Telling the Sea is a beautifully written, sensitive portrayal of young teens struggling with difficult family circumstances and coming to terms with the issues in their lives in different ways.
Nona, her mum and her four brothers and sisters have run away from their old home and are hiding out on the wild Welsh coast, leaving behind Mum’s abusive partner, Uncle Brady. They hope to start afresh, and fourteen year old Nona, the eldest of the brood—all from different fathers—does her best to make it work. But Mum is a little unstable and their new neighbour is nosy and aggressive, a bad combination.
She meets Owen, the local minister’s son, who has his own problems—an overbearing father who wants to send him to a school Owen doesn’t want to go to. But this isn’t a romance. They get off to a bad start and do become friends but it goes no further than that.
The emphasis here is on the burden of responsibility laid on these young people by adults. Nona is expected to hold the family together when her mother falls apart—which she does in spectacular fashion—and Owen is expected to fulfil his father’s expectations. The powerlessness that Nona and Owen feel at the circumstances of their lives is expertly expressed, and their way of trying to gain some control is very realistic for kids of that age. How many of us have run away from home at that age, or at least thought about it?
The book is populated with some colourful characters, all who leap off the page with vitality, and though many offer a helping hand to Nona, the only time she can truly open up and pour out her heart is to the sea. The sea is almost a character in its own right. It lures Nona deeper into its embrace as the story progresses and provides the setting for a powerful conclusion.
It’s a skilfully crafted book. The character development is exemplary, the descriptions evocative and the plot and pacing keep you turning pages long after you should have turned out the light and gone to sleep. It’s not just a book for teens, like all good young adult literature, there’s a great deal of value in it as reading material for parents. They might learn something that would help them relate better to their kids.
I highly recommend this for all readers of literature both young and old. 5 stars.
You might also enjoy this film about the writing of ‘Telling the Sea’:http://vimeo.com/55155636 It introduces you to the setting of the book, and is exactly as I imagined it.
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