Monday, 11 January 2010

Sweetwater Creek by Anne Rivers Siddons

It is good for writers to read different types of novel, as it stretches the imagination and shows the variety of styles used in published work.
Sweetwater Creek

Sweetwater Creek is a novel I read during a cruise holiday last year. I love picking a random book from the ship’s library and seeing where it takes me. I choose which one to try by reading the blurb on the inside or back cover. If the plot and setting sound enticing enough, then I start reading.

I rarely go by the first paragraph or page as I’m willing to give any novel a chance, if it sounds appealing enough! Occasionally, I have to give up if the story doesn’t hold me once I’m several pages in, but I’ve found some wonderful books this way which I otherwise wouldn’t have known.

Sweetwater Creek is one of the best novels I've read, yet it doesn’t have a very exciting plot, or big adventure or thriller elements. But the characterisation and descriptive setting are stunning. Although I knew nothing about the area, the Low Country near Charleston, I felt as though I'd been there by the end.

The story is quite gripping in an understated way. Twelve year old Emily is a lonely child whose mother has disappeared. Her favourite, book-loving, brother has died, leaving another huge gap in her life. Left on an ageing plantation with her distant father and two other hunting-mad brothers, where they raise and train the legendary Boykin hunting spaniels, Emily finds her own space accompanied by her constant companion, her own spaniel Elvis.

It is a magically descriptive setting and Emily has an almost mystical connection with the dogs, Elvis in particular with whom she mentally communicates. One of Emily’s favourite places is where the dolphins come in at certain times of the year, to Sweetwater Creek, and there is some lovely lyrical writing here.

But things are about to change. When older, more sophisticated, but troubled, Lulu Foxworth arrives on the plantation, from her own much grander estate, Emily’s father is bewitched into thinking she is a way into Charleston society. Lulu’s stay on the plantation both alarms and intrigues Emily and her sheltered life will never be the same again. Her magical world is about to become entwined with real life.

With a compelling story and beautiful writing, Anne Rivers Siddons brings twelve year old Emily to life and gives the reader a coming-of-age story that is emotional and memorable.

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