Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Twelve years ago Edwin Tully was happy. Edwin was in love with Marius, had been since college. They had found a perfect home, a cottage by the river in Oxford. Edwin rescued and restored the books while Marius painted. It was a wonderful life. Until it wasn’t. Until 2 years ago when Marius informed Edwin he didn’t love him anymore and Edwin discovered his happy life was a lie.
Now Edwin’s life feels hollow. He still loves the work he does but he lives alone in his house meant for a forever two, tending only to his elderly neighbor, his books and his memories. Until the rains come and the waters in the river start to rise, threatening his neighborhood and his house.
The rains and flooding bring Adam Dacre from the Environment Agency. An unlikely knight in worn wellingtons, Adam offers Edwin his help, and his friendship and something more. Adam offers Edwin the promise of a new “us” and the hope for a new beginning. Now if only Edwin can gather his courage to give his heart away one more time.
Alexis Hall, Alexis Hall, how is it that it took 2 recent stories for me to find you? Twice now you have managed to blow me away with your lyricism and virtuosity with the English language. First it was Sand and Ruin and Gold, and now Waiting for the Flood, a stunning story whose words are strung together like pearls and whose characters move with a quiet, fluid determination and respect through the current events and past traumas of their lives. I kept wanting someone to come and read it out loud to me so I could close my eyes and savor the words and sentences the way a person might sit in the dark listening to their favorites symphonies.
This is our introduction to Edwin Tully:
When I tell people what I do, they always want to know if I’ve worked on anything famous. The Ben Johnson Shakespeare. The Austen juvenilia. The Abinger papers.
I have, but these aren’t the projects I cherish.
What I like are diaries and letters, commonplace books and ledgers, calendars, invitations and almanacs: the everyday documents of nobody in particular. Ephemera, it’s called. From Ephemeridae, those frail-legged mayfly, with their lace- and-stained-glass wings, who live only for a day.
I wonder, sometimes, if it’s a strange occupation, this semi-obsessive preservation of the transitory. But, whereas for some people history is a few loud voices, declaiming art the and making war across the centuries, for me it’s a whispering chorus of laundry day and grocer’s bills, dress patterns and crop rotations, the price of tallow.
What becomes clear almost immediately is Edwin’s love and knowledge of words. The reason why Edwin feels and talks (or doesn’t talk) the way he does becomes understandable and real for his character., even more so as he is forced by Adam and his attraction to Adam into conversation. But its as the rains fall and the water rises that Edwin and the reader take measure of what his life has become, complete with empty spaces on the walls where Marius’ painting once hung and the dust in the room that Edwin no longer uses. It’s sad, intimate and Edwin’s loneliness and stasis comes sharply into focus. And the more time we spend inside this smart, isolated man’s mind, the more completely we take him to heart.
And then there is Adam Dacre, a character who continues to surprise scene after scene. He rises out of the water, carrying sandbags, a warrior in wellingtons, who sees a future in Edwin. When Edwin finally ventures out to find some sandbags, he discovers Adam:
A laugh. But it wasn’t unkind. “Aye, really.”
At last, I was able to look at him, connect the voice to a body, and resolve them both into the impression of a person. Awkward height and ungainly limbs stuffed untidily into orange waders and Wellington boots. He turned away, and began to unhook the sides of the truck.
I stared at the back of his neck and at his hair, which was a schoolboy tousle only charity would have called red. It was orange, carrot, ginger, marmalade, shining like an amber traffic light, tempting you to try your luck and run.
Mrs. Peaberry, his intrepid neighbor, is another joy and cornerstone here. Her presence helps to anchor it, giving it a foundation and an observant voice for Edwin and the reader to listen to. I adored Mr.s Peaberry, with her stoic nature and kindness. And outside of a few mentions of other people, that’s about the extent of the characters here. This is an intimate stage, the location in or next to Edwin’s cottage that is being closed off from the world around it by the rising waters. Although in truth, it’s Edwin who has closed it off with his memories and refusal to move forward. Its his path forward towards hope and love, however halting, that glues all the fabulous sentences and word choices together and brings the heart of the story alive.
So many analogies here, so many interesting formats and structures to look at and enjoy. Each chapter is labeled with a part of Edwin’s home. And his memories precede the start of each chapter. We enter the story by means of Chapter One, The Front Door. Through it lies Edwin, entombed in his past, waiting for something or someone to jostle him out of the rut he has gotten himself into. Chapter after chapter we move through the rooms and Edwin’s memories, followed by the events happening in the present. It’s a wonderfully engaging structure and it pulled me in completely.
Chapter one: The Front Door
With frosted glass panels and a big chunky knocker. The bell doesn’t work. Has never worked. He remembers that first viewing, standing in front of it, expectant, hopeful, hand-in-hand with Marius.
He remembers, like his first kiss, the first time he put the key in the lock, turning first the wrong way, then the right, fumbling over the not-yet-familiar gesture.
It’s heartbreaking, and true, these gentle slices into the heart by means of memory of happier times. I could really quote this story all day. Hall’s use of language and structure mirroring that of a composer’s use of notes and chords to build a sonata or symphony, the lyricism is the same. This story so like a melody in composition and fluidity.
That water, the flood, is the force majeure is one more sparkling element in Waiting for the Flood. While floods these days are considered catastrophic, we forget that they are a necessary part of nature, that floods act to cleanse and renew, washing away the debris even as the retreating flood leaves behind sediment that fertilizes the soil, allowing for new growth and new beginnings. That’s exactly the role that the flood plays here. The delight is Edwin’s journey through the waters and out into a bright new future. It’s one I will make again and again.
Just as Sand and Gold and Ruin was one of my Best of 2014, Waiting for the Flood by Alexis Hall has already found itself on my Best Books of 2015 list. I highly recommend it and, its author Alexis Hall to all readers and lovers of the written word. And don’t over look the delightful surprise at the end. It’s a recipe for Edwin’s not always successful Elderflower Wine. It’s as fascinating, joyful and resourceful as you could want.
Cover artist Simone did a lovely job but any cover would be hard put to match the magical story found within. Only the cover of Sand and Gold and Ruin came close. This is not that cover in tone or design. I wish it was.
Sales Links: Riptide Publishing All Romance (ARe) Amazon Buy It Here (links to follow)
ebook, 95 pages, available for preorder
Expected publication: February 23rd 2015 by Riptide Publishing
ISBN 1626492700 (ISBN13: 9781626492707)