This warm-hearted tale explores marriage, love, and longing, set against the majestic backdrop of Morecambe Bay, the Lakeland Fells, and the faded splendour of the Midland Hotel.
Ted Marshall meets Rene in the dance halls of Morecambe and they marry during the frail optimism of the 1950s. They adopt the roles expected of man and wife at the time: he the breadwinner at the family ceramics firm, and she the loyal housewife. But as the years go by, they find themselves wishing for more…
After Ted survives a heart attack, both see it as a new beginning… but can a faded love like theirs ever be rekindled?
“A tender and moving study of a marriage” Alison Moore, author of the Booker short listed
In The Sweep Of The Bay was an absolute gem, I loved it. My only complaint was that it was too short yet somehow Barton managed to pack so much in, her narrative economical, but to the point and conveyed so much emotion but also joy.
Barton’s characters sparkled from the page even if they didn’t quite sparkle in their lives. It primarily centered around Ted and Rene and followed their marriage in the 1950’s right up to the present day. Their marriage was a historical journey of societal changes, attitudes and opinions and I marveled at Barton’s ability to immerse me in their thoughts and reasonning.
For Rene her role was firmly set in the home and throughout her need to maintain a house that was squeeky clean, and husband and children that walked out of their front door clean and tidy. Yet she also used that role to hide her feelings, to resort to the kitchen when thoughts threatened to over take, to upset the equilibrium. You felt there was someone deep inside that wanted to break away, to shout and scream and as the years progressed to let out all the angst and anger she felt. In true British style and perhaps at the thought of societal constraints and the culture instilled within her she remained quiet and just got on with it.
Ted was sort of your typical husband, a successful businessman with a talent for painting ceramics. He knew his role was to provide for his family, to go out to work but also to expect a clean house and dinner on the table at the end of the day. But, like Rene did he too yearn for something different yet remained because that was expected?
Barton brilliantly infiltrated their relationship, from the first throes of love, to the joy of their two girls, but she injected an edge, doubts in our minds that what we and everyone else saw on the outside wasn’t really what was actually happening on the inside. You got more and more frustrated as their inability to communicate became more and more evident, the little niggles, the coldness, the shrugging away of a gentle, loving hand on a shoulder. There were glimmers of light as an event pushed them together, as a crack appeared in their hard hearts and Barton made you breath a sigh of relief and gave you hope that the love was still there.
Outlying characters flitted in, Vincenzo and Henry who navigated their homosexual relationship, Madge Ted’s assistant who remained unmarried, loyal, a hint of unrequited love sprinkled thoughout.
What bound them all together wasn’t just love and relationships, but the town of Morecambe, the windswept bay, the sparkle of the summer, the dark and bleakness of the winter. The statue of Eric Morecambe stood tall and proud, a magnet for locals and tourists, a focal point, something to be proud of. It made you question if Ted and Rene were proud of their marriage, or was it full of regrets, of not chasing their hearts, of being happier than they actually were?
Whatever the conclusions, I was totally blown away by In The Sweep of The By it was wonderfully exquisite.
I would like to thank Louise Walter Books for a copy of In The Sweep Of The Bay to read and review and Emma Welton of Damp Pebbles Tours for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
About the author
Cath lives in Abergavenny, Wales. She won the New Welsh Writing AmeriCymru Prize for the Novella in 2017 for The Plankton Collector, which was published in September 2018 by New Welsh Review under their Rarebyte imprint.
Her second novella In the Sweep of the Bay will be published in November 2020 by LWB.
Louise Walters Books: https://www.louisewaltersbooks.co.uk/shop-1
Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/3ez3EwP
Amazon US: https://amzn.to/3k7aVF6