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Coastliners: A Novel
ISBN 0060198125 / 9780060198121 / 0-06-019812-5
Publisher William Morrow
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After three novels which centered around gastronomic pleasures, Joanne Harris's Coastliners focuses on more astringent joys. Sea, gritty sand, and adverse weather conditions replace Chocolat, Blackberry Wine, and Five Quarters of the Orange. Set on a small, blustery fishing island off the coast of France, it tells the story of Mado, a young woman who returns to her childhood home to find the local community torn apart by family feuds, bad tides, and murky political machinations.
Passionate, stubborn Mado, whose "head is full of rocks," tries to save the livelihoods of the villagers of Les Salants by urging them to work together to save the beach from erosion, both natural and man-made. The villagers, written with endearing panache by Harris, are an eccentric, curmudgeonly bunch, who eventually cooperate with the help of Flynn, a charismatic stranger with a shady past. He's not the only man of mystery in Mado's life; her father, taciturn Grosjean, has a secretive heart that's as "prickly and tightly layered as an artichoke," and local, wealthy businessman Brismand also seems to be hiding something. Mado does her best to unravel these mysteries, while attempting to keep a hold on her own sense of self in the claustrophobic, close community. It's not only the shore line that takes a buffeting. The villagers and the island are so vividly described that it's impossible not to become engrossed in Mado's story. Coastliners is a book about longing to belong, and Joanne Harris charts that emotional voyage compellingly. --Eithne Farry, Amazon.co.uk [via]