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Review: Tides -Sara Freeman


Genre: Literary Fiction

Published: Granta Books, January 2022 My Rating: 3/5 stars


"If you can't let go of anything, let go of everything. She read this once somewhere."


If I had to review this book using only two words, it would be melancholic and pointless, both in terms of content and the feeling I was left with after flipping the final page. Tides tells the story of a deeply troubled woman and her (very unhealthy) way of coping with a complex trauma she’s suffered. When we meet Mara, she has already traveled a long way by bus, not towards- , but away from something. Her flight lands her at a seaside village at what feels like the edge of the world, penniless and without connections. She finds work and refuge at the local wine store and its owner Simon, a man who’s losses mirror her own.


The book has its moments of brilliance, often on the sentence level, but as a whole didn’t really pull together for me. It’s nails its atmosphere, from the loneliness of a coastal town abandoned outside of the tourist-season, to the heavy blanket of melancholy and troubledness that weighs on these characters. Much of it is raw, ugly and bleak, and that’s clearly the intention. I’m fine with the melancholic part; in fact, I often appreciate the beauty in that. What didn’t work for me was the pointless-part. Mara feels like her life is pointless, but rather than take action and accountability in her life, we only see her engage in more and more pointless acts throughout the novel. She indulges in the vapidness of empty sex, alcohol and luxury food she cannot afford, and by the end has learned absolutely nothing. She ends the story in the exact same place she started, having undergone no character growth or development. Maybe the intent was “realism”, but from a story-telling perspective, this is a problem. Nothing changed over the course of my read. In other words; it was pointless.


Those few beautiful lines of prose, unfortunately flanked by an equal amount of “not quite” sentences that just missed the mark when aiming for profound, weren’t enough to redeem the book for me. I’m interested to see what Sara Freeman writes in the future, but this unfortunately wasn’t a book I’ll go out of my way to recommend.


Find this book here on Goodreads.

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