Gareth Rees is a man in crisis. Newly arrived in Hastings and mortgaged to the guts in a crumbling Victorian fixer-upper, Rees takes refuge in his pet project, a written history of his new home town, one peopled by cranks, inventors and master magicians. But as renovations stall and a wedge grows between him and his family, the words dry up and he finds himself pacing the dimly lit promenades of his seaside home in search of inspiration. If only his problems stopped there. Throw sickness, heartbreak, freak tides and looming mortality into the mix, and you have quite the conundrum.
The Stone Tide is a hybrid of the richest, wildest sort, part memoir, part fiction, all broilingly mad. It starts with a death and ends in ecstatic vision. Chapters modelled as comic strips, historical docu-fictions and MRI-induced dreamquests come spilling from the page, like the track listing of some impossibly eclectic vintage prog LP. A typical sentence reads ‘after my discovery that there might be phantoms in my balls, I started to get terrible visions‘. And yet this is also a book with tremendous heart, invested in what it means to try (and fail) to begin again. Rees writes with a wry, engaging voice and is never less than aware of his own ridiculousness.
Rees’ first book, Marshlands, was a delight, semi-mythic trawl across the uncivilised edges of London. The Stone Tide carries that same torch out of the capital but feels like a more mature read. At the novel’s centre is a careful examination of grief. Rees writes affectingly of the loss of a childhood friend and the strange shame of having lived out his life without him. His reflections on nostalgia and aging lend a human tone to his writing’s wilder palette and leave us feeling that, of all the strangeness and secrets lurking in the shadows of our collective pasts, understanding ourselves is often the greatest mystery.
Gareth E. Rees
Gareth E. Rees is the founder and editor of the website Unofficial Britain, and author of Marshland(Influx Press, 2013). His work has featured in anthologies including An Unreliable Guide to London(Influx Press), Mount London (Penned in the Margins), Acquired for Development By… [Influx Press], Walking Inside Out: Contemporary British Psychogeography (Rowman & Littlefield), The Ashgate Companion to Paranormal Cultures (Ashgate), and the spoken word album A Dream Life of Hackney Marshes (Clay Pipe Music). He lives in Hastings with his two daughters and a dog named Hendrix.
The Stone Tide is available from Influx Press here.
Reviewed by Nick Garrard
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