The Boat – Clara Salaman
The Boat is one of those novels which is utterly chilling and uncomfortable yet you can’t put it down until you have read the final page.
I received the book as one of my Christmas presents and if I’m completely honest it wasn’t top of my reading pile. However I was feeling a little down and the murky cover matched my mood at the time and I decided to give it a go…
Clem and Johnny are teenagers who fell madly in love when they were children. Both adventurous and shunning normality, the married couple decide to have a yearlong honeymoon sailing around Turkey.
They soon find themselves in trouble and believe they are saved when they hear the haunting singing of a woman. They find out she is called Annie and she invites them on her family’s boat. The young lovers meet her husband Frank and their daughter known affectionately as ‘Smudge’. For the first few days everything is idyllic, the sun beats down on them, they discuss the meaning of life and spend the evenings under the light of the stars. Clem and Johnny find the ability to be free and weightless when they are with Frank and Annie but it all takes a turn for the worst when feelings of lust and attraction boil over.
Things start to fall apart one evening when under the influence of alcohol the party play spin the bottle and decide to swap partners which results in Jonny having sex with Annie and Clem and Frank enjoying relations. Clem and Johnny’s relationship once felt invincible and pure and Jonny now struggles to recover from their antics.
But things are about to get a whole lot worse as Salaman hints of Frank’s unusual tendencies and the influence he has upon others. Annie admits to Johnny they are on the run from British authorities and he later finds out it’s due to Frank’s actions as a child abuser. Due to Clem’s lust and infatuation with Frank she refuses to believe Johnny. Frank dismisses Annie’s claims by saying they are on the run due to helping his wife to escape from a mental asylum. Struggling to see the truth from reality Johnny begs Clem to leave the boat but she refuses. Without ruining the ending, it’s completely heart breaking and all their lives will never be the same.
I wasn’t expecting the book to be as dark and twisted as it was. I think Salaman dealt with the controversial subject matter well and still presented a tragic and deeply sad novel. It has echoes of Alex Garland’s The Beach which I loved. It’s not for the faint-hearted but I would definitely recommend it.