CategoryBaume Sara

Tramp Press: Seven Steeples by Sara Baume

Sara Baume’s third novel begins with a disconcerting description of a mountain in south-west Ireland. First, Baume emphasises that this apparently passive landscape is full of the eyes of animals:

And each eye was focused solely on its surrounding patch of ground or gorse or rock or air. Each perceived the pattern, shade and proportion of its patch differently. Each shifted and assimilated at the pace of one patch at a time.

Then, the mountain itself becomes an eye:

It’s kept watch on the sky, sea and land, and every ornament and obstruction – the moon and clouds; the trawlers, yachts and gannetries; the rooftops, roads and chimney pots; the turbines, telegraph poles and steeples.

The image of an eye recurs throughout Seven Steeples, along with the sense of the landscape as an antagonistic (or at least indifferent) presence. 

Into this landscape come Bell and Sigh, a couple who believe that “the only appropriate trajectory for a life was to leave as little trace as possible and incrementally disappear.” They have moved here determined to cut all ties with their old lives (for reasons which are at most only hinted at). They resolve to climb that mountain, but for the seven years of this book, it remains unclimbed. 

Seven Steeples is one of those novels that takes you into the minds of its protagonists through the way it’s written. This is not a novel concerned with ‘what happens’ so much as with the ebb and flow of the life Bell and Sigh want to lead. The rhythms of Baume’s prose reflect that the couple want to live as part of the landscape, and it’s absorbing to read. 

Published by Tramp Press.

Spill Simmer Falter Wither: We Love This Book review

I have a review up at We Love This Book of Sara Baume’s debut novel, Spill Simmer Falter Wither. The book is narrated by a fiftysomething man to his one-eyed dog, but in an oblique and rambling voice that reveals just how much the protagonist has to say (sometimes without realising it) when he finally has someone to talk to:

My father’s name was the same word as for the small insectivorous passerine birds found most commonly photographed on Christmas cards, with orange-red blushed breasts as though they’ve been water-boarded by molten amber and stained for life. But my father’s name is just another strange sound sent from the mouths of men to confuse you, to distract from your vocabulary of commands. It doesn’t mean anything; it doesn’t matter.

Read the full review here.

Book details (Foyles affiliate link)

Spill Simmer Falter Wither (2015) by Sara Baume, Windmill Books paperback

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