I’m delighted to be sharing my review of We Were the Salt of the Sea today as part of the blog tour alongside the lovely Eva at Novel Deelights.
As Montrealer Catherine Day sets foot in a remote fishing village and starts asking around about her birth mother, the body of a woman dredges up in a fisherman’s nets. Not just any woman, though: Marie Garant, an elusive, nomadic sailor and unbridled beauty who once tied many a man’s heart in knots. Detective Sergeant Joaquin Morales, newly drafted to the area from the suburbs of Montreal, barely has time to unpack his suitcase before he’s thrown into the deep end of the investigation. On Quebec’s outlying Gaspé Peninsula, the truth can be slippery, especially down on the fishermen’s wharves. Interviews drift into idle chit-chat, evidence floats off with the tide and the truth lingers in murky waters. It’s enough to make DS Morales reach straight for a large whisky… Both a dark and consuming crime thriller and a lyrical, poetic ode to the sea, We Were the Salt of the Sea is a stunning, page-turning novel, from one of the most exciting new names in crime fiction.
We Were the Salt of the Sea is a beautifully written novel that is as much a love song to the sea as it is an intriguing mystery to be solved. It opens in 1974 as a woman gives birth to her child aboard her sail boat. It then flashes forward 33 years as Catherine arrives on the Gaspé Peninsula in search of her birth mother. I didn’t completely warm to Catherine at first, although I did feel a great deal of sympathy for her situation, and I found myself warming to her as the novel progressed.
The small town that Catherine arrives in is populated by an extremely close-knit community of idiosyncratic characters. I love novels that are set in small towns or communities, and Bouchard does it brilliantly here. Many of the locals work on the sea, and they are an extremely practical, down to earth bunch. If there was one element of the novel that didn’t work for me personally, it’s that many of the characters have a “catchphrase” or a statement that they’d roll out repeatedly such as “Christ in a chalice”. I did find this to be a little repetitive, although it does make it very clear who is speaking. This is a purely personal preference, however, which just didn’t suit my personal tastes, and it is a minor point.
We Were the Salt of the Sea isn’t a fast-paced novel, but it presents an intriguing mystery in a wonderfully unique setting that is brought to life through Bouchard’s fantastic prose. Part crime novel, this is also a work of literary fiction, and won’t suit those who are looking for a fast-paced thriller. For those who like a small-town vibe with dashes of humour, however, this could be for you.
We Were the Salt of the Sea will be published in paperback on 30 March by Orenda Books, and is available to buy now as an eBook. Many thanks to Anne Cater for the advanced copy and the opportunity to take part in the blog tour.