SALT

Jeremy Page

 A haunting, evocative portrait of three generations of a family by an exciting and inspired new voice in fiction.

It is the summer of 1945 in Norfolk, England, and when Goose comes upon a German soldier buried neck deep in the mud of a local salt marsh, she pulls him out and brings him home. Nine months later, he vanishes in a makeshift boat, leaving Goose behind with a newborn daughter, Lil. Taught to read the clouds by her mother, Lil is curious and her childhood strange. When she becomes the object of two brothers’

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 A haunting, evocative portrait of three generations of a family by an exciting and inspired new voice in fiction.

It is the summer of 1945 in Norfolk, England, and when Goose comes upon a German soldier buried neck deep in the mud of a local salt marsh, she pulls him out and brings him home. Nine months later, he vanishes in a makeshift boat, leaving Goose behind with a newborn daughter, Lil. Taught to read the clouds by her mother, Lil is curious and her childhood strange. When she becomes the object of two brothers’ desire, her life takes a tragic turn.

Fifteen years later, it is Lil’s son, Pip, who attempts to make sense of his family’s intriguing history. Pip, who never utters a word, is alone and isolated in his mute world and is beguiled by the lovely flame-haired Elsie who lives nearby. Pip comes of age among the marshes like the generations before him—but will the misfortune of his family’s past repeat itself through him?

Salt is a family saga that explores the relationship between people and the landscape in which they live. Atmospheric and lyrical, Jeremy Page’s debut novel is revelatory in its use of language. For fans of John Banville and Marilynne Robinson, Salt signals the introduction of a significant writer

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  • Viking
  • Hardcover
  • July 2007
  • 256 Pages
  • 9780670038687

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$24.95

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About Jeremy Page

Jeremy Page lives in London, where he has worked as a script editor for Film Four, the filmmaking division of the UK’s Channel Four. Salt is his first novel.

Praise

“A powerful new voice…Salt is the funny, flavorsome tale of three generations.”
—The Independent (UK)

“Stunningly good. Captures the landscapes with a truly deft water-colorist’s touch.”
—Rose Tremain, author of Restoration

Discussion Questions

When Lil’ is a teenager, it is noted that “girls write the rules” (p. 51). What happened to this power and confidence that she once possessed?

Why do Lil’ and Shrimp/George have to move away from home? Why couldn’t or wouldn’t they stay? Why don’t they marry right away

Why does Pip claim not to be a cloud reader (p. 105) yet notice and interpret the clouds nonetheless?

At what point does the question of Elsie’s origins first become apparent? When does it dawn on her? If Kipper suspects it, why does he take up with her?

Hands is portrayed as always being a dreamer, his son-in-law Shrimp/George as a man who has lost his dreams. “At some point he’d changed,” Pip observes (p. 179). Why did one hold on to his dreams while the other could not?

During the burning of the great diseased elm tree, Pip’s father, “his face stern but his emotions under wraps,” tells him “never to forget what we were watching” (p. 127). Moments later he says the same thing to the young woman with whom he has become involved. What is it, really, that his father doesn’t want them to forget? What will Pip remember that his father may not expect?

Many of the characters have double names (Lil’/May, Shrimp/George, Kipper/John), or doubles in other people (brothers, twins), or objects (often boats, as in Hands/Hansa, Pip/Pip). What does this say about identity? How is this concept seen in other motifs? In the landscape?

Having left his father for his grandmother’s house in the salt marsh, Pip imagines himself as his grandfather, Hands, when he first came to the same house many years earlier. “This is how it all began,” he thinks. “If I can just start again here I’ll be able to tell where it all went wrong” (p. 158). Does Pip ever find that moment when things went wrong? Does he think he can figure out how to make it right?

Pip notes repeatedly that everyone in his family seems to run away. Do they ever run toward something? What about Elsie and her disappearance?

It’s this marsh,” Pip observes, fearing for Elsie, for his lost mother. “This beautiful marsh. It will destroy us. It’s destroyed them all” (p. 273). Is he actually placing blame for his family’s ills on the land? Is he seeking a way to understand them?

At the very end, Pip says, “Find me . . . Take me back. And I thought how beautiful it must have looked from the land—my little show of fireworks” (p. 323). To whom is he speaking? Who does he imagine is watching?

When we learn that Pip does not speak (except, as it later turns out, very selectively), how does this affect the way we read his narrative? We know that much of it is speculation and imagination, but can we ever determine the perspective from which he narrates? Is Pip as a storyteller to be trusted any more than his mother and grandmother?