By the Shore by Galazy Craze
Published to great international acclaim, Galaxy Craze's best-selling debut, By the Shore, launched a young actress into literary fame. In clear and sparkling prose, her novel evokes a fragile, bittersweet world of youth on the cusp of adulthood and "captures perfectly the hopes and hurts of childhood" (The New York Times Book Review). Twelve-year-old May lives in a less than thriving oceanfront bed-and-breakfast run by her single mother. Her life is filled with the frustrations and promise of youth, complicated by a loving if distracted young mother who strives to care for her two children without forfeiting fun and passion. May puts her faith in the things that elude her - her absent father, the London city life left behind, the acceptance of the popular girls who have boyfriends -- and wonders if her life will ever change. When a kindly writer and his glamorous editor come to lodge in the weeks before Christmas, opportunities are in the air. But then May's playboy father, estranged from the family for years, drops in and threatens to freeze the delicate new possibilities stirring in all their lives.
I initially picked up this novel because I am slated to review its successor, Tiger Tiger, for CurledUp.com, and I really, really hate to read the second book before the first. (I know, I'm a little anal about that.) I'd read some pretty wildly disparate reviews of the two books, so I didn't quite know what to expect - I was very pleasantly surprised.
By the Shore captures perfectly the voice of its 12-year-old narrator, May. The prose itself is quiet, almost tentative, much like a young girl taking her first steps into adulthood. May is sweet, lovable, funny, wise, bratty - very much what you would expect of a young girl. She is smart beyond her years, due to her mother's somewhat haphazard care, and yet still clings naively to the hope that her father will return and create one big, happy family. Eden, her brother, and Lucy, her mother, are both compelling, and the three characters form the strong backbone of the novel.
I was captivated from the first paragraph:
"It can be dangerous to live by the shore. In the winter, after a storm, things wash up on it: rusty pieces of sharp metal, glass, jellyfish. You must be careful where you tread. Sometimes I see a lone fish that has suffocated on the shore and think for days that there are fish in the water waiting for it to return. Then I think, There is nowhere to be safe."
Something about this earnest, sweet young girl just grabbed me, and I read her story with fascination. Oh, how I wanted her to be happy, and not to learn the hard lessons I could sense would be coming her way.
"When they had gone into the house I pushed myself up off the ground and walked over to the tree where Eden had been playing. There were some acorns, leaves in piles, small stones and twigs: a whole world of something I couldn't see anymore. When you are six years old you can sit at the bottom of a tree and everything becomes alive around you. The moss is a soft green carpet, the stone a sofa, the hollows of a tree a house. The wind was a low voice around me. It was getting darker out. The kitchen light was on and I could see the yellow walls and the long shadows made when someone walked past the light. I stared down at the base of the tree, but all I could see was a pile of twigs and leaves, and a few stones. This is how I know I'm getting older: a stick is just a stick."
It certainly has is weaknesses - the romance between Lucy and the visiting writer is predictable, May's father is, of course, a huge jerk - but the bond between the three main characters, and the voice of May, made me overlook the problems and fall in love with this novel. I'm so happy I decided to read it, and now can't wait to start the next one!