Summerwater – Sarah Moss


Twelve groups of people holiday on a Scottish loch, unaware of the tragedy that is about to unfold.

Chosen by Jo

“Apt for a loch setting, there is dark and mysterious element at work in Summerwater. Its title is a reference to “The Ballad of Semerwater” by the poet William Watson. This was based on a legend in which the waters of a lake rise up and drown a village, saving only the household who have offered a stranger from a distant land food and drink.

“On the shore of Moss’ loch are several holiday cabins, encased in a typical Scottish deluge of rain. Their inhabitants’ tales of rainy day gloom, boredom activities and wild imaginings are told, and from the outset it’s clear tragedy will befall one of them by day’s end, but who? Everyone has a secret, no one has mobile phone coverage, and there are many personalities and natural dangers at play.

Under the hedges, in the hollows of small trees, birds droop and wilt, grounded, waiting. Small creatures in their burrows nose the air and stay hungry. There will be deaths by morning.

⫸ “The beauty of Summerwater lay in its skilful representation of the myriad different characters. It was if different authors were writing about each of the characters. My attention was captured from the outset of the book; I felt the tension immediately. Throughout the pages there were so many potential tragic scenarios and the skilful prose kept me guessing until the end. The conclusion was fairly swift, and I thought that it was a bit of a shame to not have the characters’ post-tragedy perspectives.” – Jo

⫸ “Summerwater was a slow paced read but waiting for something terrible happen helped keep me engaged. Moss did a great job conjuring up images of each family. It felt real and natural. The ending was tragic and completed the novel with the punch it needed” – Jodie

⫸ “Moss’ ability to build atmosphere and conjure up the many iterations of family life was of particular note in Summerwater. The pace matched the drum of the constant rain and the sense of doom grew page by page. Despite intently trying to guess the tragedy, I did not pick how things would end up. Summerwater was a quick but intense read and I really enjoyed it. ” – Rachel

⫸ “Summerwater was such an evocative read and conjured up many memories of family holidays – mainly the not-so-fun parts that inevitably occur when the weather plays up or the full-on time spent together becomes a little too much. Although we only got small glimpses into the characters’ lives I was somehow left with the feeling of knowing them all so well. The wee twist that was brought about by Jo’s research definitely put a more sinister spin on the novel, and left me thinking about it for weeks after.” – Suzy


Published 2020
Pan MacMillan/Picador
208 pages

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