Tim and Maud seem, to everyone around them, mismatched. She, quite literally, falls into his life, and they build a life – jobs, a house, a boat, then a child. Tim needs Maud, needs her to complete him, wants desperately to complete her, to help her. But what if Maud is already complete? What if she doesn’t need help? When tragedy strikes, Maud will find herself miles away from anyone, on a journey that will change everything, and test her to the utmost.
Quite simply, this is a novel that went in directions I was not expecting, keeping me gripped, thrilled and intrigued throughout. A fascinating, if rather familiar first half gives way to a tense and frantic quarter, to be followed by a final quarter in a setting that I don’t think anyone could have predicted, and which finally allows the lead character a chance to open herself up to the reader somewhat.
Google ‘Andrew Miller’, and you’ll find many a review or quote that states about how poetically he writes – simply, and with short stark phrases that can illuminate a person’s character or a moment in time better than many authors could in a whole book. He takes this to new levels in The Crossing, and indeed it take some time to adjust to the stark, controlled and distanced feel that pervades the first half or so of the book. The reader is made to feel like a passive observer – unable to participate or intervene, and to watch the lead characters fall together, then apart, without gaining a huge understanding of what makes them tick. This is Maud in particular, a character who often seems unlikeable, cold and uncaring, but who is illuminated and expanded upon hugely in the second half of the book, and becomes someone who the reader is allowed intimate, unbarred access to. It took me some time to get used to the tone used, and may feel cold to some initially. In truth though, it is perhaps quite a realistic way of introducing characters – we get to know these characters, to understand how they tick and why they are the way they are gradually and carefully – feeling almost grateful to be allowed glimpses of psyche. It’s almost like getting to know someone in real life, and it becomes abundantly clear that these characters are not the one note characters who often pervade fiction, but instead completely rounded characters who could walk off the page and be the person working next to you, your next door neighbour, or someone you went to University with.
It stands to reason then, that by the time the reader has gained an understanding of Maud, her actions in the latter sections of the book make sense. Leaving behind all that she knows and embarking on an epic and dangerous trip across the sea the book changes tone completely, and the focus settles fully on Maud. A fascinating character, both relatable and familiar yet distant, perplexing and frustrating, Maud changes beyond all recognition –yet still manages to be the girl who falls off the boat in the opening chapter.
A devastating examination of love, loss, and human nature, The Crossing is a breathtakingly good read, with beautiful prose, stark imagery and a genuinely surprising plot.
Many thanks to the publishers for the copy – I hugely enjoyed it. Pure is my recommendation for further reading – a book set in a completely different period, and a wildly different tale, but the clear, crisp prose is just as good as in The Crossing
This review was originally posted on The Bookbag – http://www.thebookbag.co.uk/reviews/index.php?title=The_Crossing_by_Andrew_Miller