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Slack-Tide Reviews

Slack-Tide by Elanor Dymott


Elanor Dymott

3.42 out of 5

7 reviews

Imprint: Jonathan Cape Ltd
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publication date: 15 Jan 2019
ISBN: 9781787331129

Slack-Tide takes us on an urgent journey and kept me reading late into the night.' Esther Freud`By midsummer the thing between us was finished, and it was as if a storm had torn the roof from over me.'It is four years since the loss of a child broke her marriage, and Elizabeth is fiercely protective of her independence.

5 stars out of 5
Sophie Ratcliffe
2 Feb 2019

"brilliant depiction of both romantic rapture and heartfelt delusion"

...Slack-Tide, Elanor Dymott's captivating third novel, is sharp in many ways... The whole thing would be unbearably plangent if it wasn't so convincingly – and, at times, so disastrously – funny. Dymott plays some quieter games too, from her handling of space, to her choice of names. The nod to that most famous of Victorian literary power couples is just one of the many sly iterations in this book. But what makes Slack-Tide distinct is its brilliant depiction of both romantic rapture and heartfelt delusion.


4 stars out of 5
1 Feb 2019

"Sharp and potent, this novel explores what it’s like to fall in love and have your heart broken"

But these are minor flaws, perceptible only because the rest of the book is so well judged. Sharp and potent, this novel explores what it’s like to fall in love and have your heart broken. We are spared any notion of idealised romance. Instead we get passion at its most convincing: flawed, irrational and wild.

3 stars out of 5
Johanna Thomas-Corr
20 Jan 2019

"a subtle, literary two-hander"

...a subtle, literary two-hander about a 40-year-old woman who is drawn into an intense relationship with an older American architect... There are several things to enjoy in Dymott’s novel, not least her swift, knowing prose about London life and its bourgeois pleasures... If Dymott intended this to be a story about self-deception, she doesn’t flag it early enough. If it’s a send up of an entitled man-child, it should be more wry. Instead, Elizabeth seems mildly perplexed that she fell under Robert’s sway. For a novelist, she’s curiously unperceptive.

2 stars out of 5
18 Jan 2019

"we can certainly say that it is a novel written by a middle-aged female novelist, about a middle-aged female novelist."

Slack-Tide does not bill itself as autofiction, but it certainly reads as such. The publishers recommend the book to “fans of Rachel Cusk, Ben Lerner and Maggie O’Farrell”, all novelists known for their autobiographical writing. Reading Elizabeth’s biography against Elanor’s throws up uncanny similarities. On the train down to another coercively attended event – this time in Cornwall – Robert is described reading “a novel by our middle-aged male host-to-be, about a middle-aged male novelist’s midlife crisis”. If we can’t say that Slack-Tide is autobiographical, we can certainly say that it is a novel written by a middle-aged female novelist, about a middle-aged female novelist.

4 stars out of 5
Alex Preston
7 Jan 2019

"a fierce and often very funny send-up of a generation of men who think they can have their cake and eat it."

Given that we know how things work out, it’s the why that keeps us reading; the shifting, inconclusive answers to that question make this a far stranger and more compelling novel than it might initially seem. This is also a book with an intense awareness of the material of everyday life: Dymott demonstrates beautifully how close attention paid to the description of the seemingly incidental objects that surround a character can bring them to life in a vivid and memorable way.

2 stars out of 5
Mika Ross-Southall
6 Jan 2019

"the book’s promise of profundity never fully materialise"

Dymott’s rendering of Robert verges on caricature and her prose often lacks lyricism, in particular during the many sex scenes (“I’m so wet you can swim in me,” says Elizabeth to Robert, while she watches him pump up bicycle tyres). Some passages, such as a powerful flashback to when Elizabeth’s dead baby was removed from her womb in hospital, are compelling enough to make it seem as though Slack-Tide is heading somewhere substantial. Much like Elizabeth and Robert’s relationship, though, the book’s promise of profundity never fully materialises.

4 stars out of 5
Zoë Apostolides
4 Jan 2019

"A writer navigates the complexities of memory in this study of an ill-fated love affair"

What traps Elizabeth, and forms the body of this psychologically intelligent study, is the difficulty of assessing when to compromise, when not to, and when to use her own past as context, especially amid her intense desire to conceive again versus Robert’s reluctance. “I wondered then how many relationships were structured in this way, so that people everywhere were doing what Robert had done, and making a life alongside another person without much minding who they were, as long as they filled a gap which would otherwise be empty.” In raising such confronting and introspective questions, Dymott’s slim little novel packs a very precise punch.