When you’re young, from time to time, in hope, you head into the garden and start digging. You believe, in absence of advice, that at some point you will reach the other side of the earth.
Eventually you will be disappointed, but in continuance hope is infinite.
To me, that feeling was captured, contained, in Cynan Jone’s fourth novel, Cove.
It’s a sparse work, short and direct. A man, unnamed, has headed out by Kayak from the west coast of Wales. He is intending to fish.
At home he leaves a pregnant wife, unnamed, unaware of his plan.
The man, somewhat damaged by his past, heads out too far and is struck by lightening. In drifting, beautiful, prose he fights towards home. The central tension of Cove is, will he make it and does he want to?
This book will not be for everyone. It is evasive and often difficult. The staccato text is demanding and the characters, with their minimally drawn hinterland, hard to latch on to.
But it will always engage the reader, force them to confront questions about mortality and human weakness. The writing is graceful and fascinating. The characters, although simply sketched, have motivations and desires that strike the reader as genuine and ingrained.
The obvious comparison for Cove is Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, with it’s similar setting and focus. However, I was reminded much more strongly of Cormac McCarthy in the sheer stripped-down precision of the work.
Whatever the reference, one thing is true. Cove is an insistent work of challenge and one I could not put down until its conclusion.
Cynan Jones (born 1975 near Aberaeron, Ceredigion, Wales) is a Welsh writer, who lives and works in Ceredigion. Jones published his first novel, The Long Dry, in 2006. He later published three novels between 2011 and 2014. His work has been translated into other languages, and his short stories have appeared in a number of anthologies and publications like Granta and New Welsh Review. The story A Glass of Cold Water aired on BBC Radio 4 in May 2014
Cove was published by Granta Books on 3rd November 2016.
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Review by Joseph Surtees
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