Catching the Tide
This is certainly ‘a good read’ at almost 600 pages. I found it quite a challenge, as there is no strong narrative line to carry the book forward. The story follows the lives of three women over the course of about twenty years, from the 1930s to the 1950s. Two are sisters and the other is the wife of the elder sister’s lover. The two sisters live in Italy and England respectively, and since there is a war on for much of the time they see little of each other. The third woman never meets the elder sister and encounters the younger one only in the last few pages. So we have three largely independent stories told in alternating chapters.
At first I found it difficult to find sympathy for any of the characters, who all seemed shallow and spoilt, with too much money and no real work. I later decided that this was intentional, as the characters gradually matured as they coped with increasing difficulties, including major catastrophes and everyday struggles. I was quite moved when the elder sister died. I suppose this book is classed as a romance – the protagonists are female and the main emphasis is on their love lives – but the heroines have more than their share of misfortune and they don’t all live happily ever after. There are more divorces than marriages, and they all end up in reduced circumstances.
The book is very well written, with a strong sense of time and place. There were some improbabilities that jarred, but it is psychologically credible. Take your time with it.