A decade ago in Zambia, Cecelia died at home at the hands of a mob. It was a death that still affects Landyn and Vale Midwinter, father and son. Now back in Suffolk, they are both still raw and haunted by her death and frequently descend into rows and fights. It is after one of these major falling outs that Vale ends up getting plastered with a friend of his called Tom. They decide to steal a boat and because they are so drunk, just about survive an accident.
As they recover from their injuries, the father and son start to look back at the events that brought them to this night. It is a painful process for both as they are full of anguish a decade after the event. Alternating between their perspectives we learn about the landscape of Zambia and how tough a life it was out there to Suffolk where they are now. As each man contemplates the sharp elements of his grief, we learn how they grasp for crumbs of comfort for the lady that they lost all that time ago.
It took a little while for me to get into this book. The flipping between the father and son and the harsh African and gritty English landscapes is slightly unnerving and the story seeps into you. I couldn’t quite see where it was going, then something clicked in the story and Melrose’s power as a storyteller made this quite a poignant book showing how people deal, or more correctly don’t cope with, the long-term effects of grief. I liked the prose too, it has the same wistful melancholy to At Hawthorn time by Melissa Harrison. Will definitely be reading Johannesburg by her.