By Elizabeth Lowry
Lowry does for the C19th Gothic what Francis Spufford did for the C18th novel, as a doctor looks back on the patient whose dark secret changed his understanding of what makes us human.
'Eloquent, impressive . . . while her touch is witty, her manner almost buoyant, her themes are sinister beyond belief. She touches the frontiers of the human' Hilary Mantel
Aboard the USS Orbis as it embarks from Boston and surges south to round Cape Horn, Hiram Carver takes up his first position as ship's doctor. Callow and anxious among the seasoned sailors, he struggles in this brutal floating world until he meets William Borden.
Borden. The Hero of the Providence. A legend among sailors, his presence hypnotizes Carver, even before he hears the man's story. Years before, Borden saved several men from mutiny and led them in a dinghy across the Pacific to safety.
Every ship faces terror from the deep. What happens on the Orbis binds Carver and Borden together forever. When Carver recovers, and takes up a role at Boston's Asylum for the Insane, he will meet Borden again - broken, starving, overwhelmed by the madness that has shadowed him ever since he sailed on the Providence.
Carver devotes himself to Borden's cure, sure it depends on drawing out the truth about that terrible voyage. But though he raises up monsters, they will not rest. So Carver must return once more to the edge of the sea and confront the man - and the myth - that lie in dark water.
Elizabeth Lowry's gothic masterpiece gives the genre of Heart of Darkness and Moby-Dick a new, beating heart. In Carver and Borden, she realizes the dichotomy of savagery and reason, of man and monster, of life and sacrifice, in a tale rich with adventure and glorious imagination.
Elizabeth Lowry was born in Washington, DC and educated in South Africa and England. She lives and works in Oxford. Her first novel, The Bellini Madonna, was published in 2008 to great acclaim. She is a frequent contributor to the London Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, The Guardian and The Wall Street Journal.
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- Publication date:
06 Sep 2018
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Seldom has a ship and its metaphorical rigging sailed through the novel form to better effect. And it's seldom that a thoughtful, deeply-pondered novel makes you want to turn the pages so fast. Elizabeth Lowry's evocation of time and place - whether a Boston parlour or a ship's darkest hole - is warm and sure, and her characters, particularly the adamantine Borden, have a solid presence, but remain enigmatic at their core. She makes us realise how hard it is to know even one human being, no matter how long and privileged our acquaintance, or what ordeals we have shared. Her eloquent, impressive sentences often end in a way you don't predict, and while her touch is witty, her manner almost buoyant, her themes are sinister beyond belief. She touches the frontiers of the human, and balances there on the crest of a stylish wave. — Hilary Mantel