The Crossing by Andrew Miller

the-crossing

Rating: ★★★★☆

Maud and Tim are students in Bristol and members of their university’s sailing club.  Maud is something of a loner, and prefers her own company.  Tim, like many others, finds her to enigmatic and captivating, and is desperate to reach out to her.

When Maud has an accident whilst making repairs to a boat, Tim is there for her and helps her through her recovery, and two eventually become a couple.  They make a life together, with Tim living off his family’s wealth, whilst Maud begins her career as a research scientist.  Yet Tim feels that Maud has always remained distant and has held herself apart, and maybe isn’t as invested in their relationship as he is, even after their daughter is born.

When disaster strikes, Tim returns to the comfort of his family, whilst Maud seeks solace where she has always found it – on her own, and in sailing.  Embarking upon an epic journey, Maud is tested to her limits as she takes on an epic solo journey that would daunt all but the hardiest of sailors.

The Crossing is a novel of two halves.  It is initially told from Tim’s perspective, and in this way the reader is given a biased view of Maud.  Socially inept, Maud gives away very little information about herself, and she is made out to be cold and unfeeling.  Tim struggles with their relationship, and it seemed to me that the aspects of Maud that were so fascinating to him from a distance are the very aspects that he comes to resent as their lives progress.

With the accident (which I won’t say anymore about), the novel is turned on its head, and the reader is left alone with Maud and her own point of view.  Whilst she remains aloof and seemingly untouchable, I came to see that she has been misunderstood.  There are moments when she very clearly feels emotion – joy at being on the open water, for example, and sorrow for her past, yet she doesn’t express this openly.  It’s all internalised.  She is also extremely practical, and so chooses to get on with her life, rather than dwelling on what has gone before; she came across as being almost fatalistic.  In this way I sympathised with her, as those around her are baffled by her refusal to act as they expect, rather than allowing her to deal with events in her own way.  For me, this was the key to Maud’s character – she doesn’t act as we expect, and so we don’t know how to deal with her, and neither do those around her.  Yet when has human emotion ever been straightforward?

I don’t like to talk about how novels end in my reviews, as I’d hate to spoil a novel for someone.  And yet the ending to The Crossing warrants a mention as it’s both unexpected and more than a little unusual.  I go into any detail, but the ending, whilst original, even a little bizarre, wasn’t entirely satisfying, for me, at least, although I suspect that both Maud and the conclusion to The Crossing will stay with me for some time to come.

This was a captivating read, and quite unlike anything else I’ve read.

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