Some Fall Reading Recommendations
There are dark stories and there are dark stories. Beside the Sea, by Veronique Olmi and translated by Adriana Hunter, is a slender novella about a woman who has taken her children to the sea but we quickly realize she suffers from mental illness. She is ill-equipped to take care of her children and she has planned this trip, as their last. There is a sense of foreboding and misery throughout the book, with only a few bright moments—a warm cup of hot chocolate, a visit to a carnival. But then there are all the other moments—the mother, exhausted, paranoid, unable to think clearly; the children, tired and hungry and confused; the tension of wondering what will happen to this family and of knowing these three people are alone in the world. They are not safe. What intrigues me about Beside the Sea, is how we can see the ways in which a mother can be the best person for her children and the worst at the very same time. Early on, this mother worries about her son’s wet hair and observes, “Perhaps all mothers do it: protecting their children from fevers, maybe it’s an animal thing, it’s stronger than us.” Ultimately, this novella is about animal things—a mother who desperately wants to protect her children from the cruelties of the world, from the darkness in her mind, and who makes a devastating choice to do what she feels is right. Beside the Sea is haunting and superb.