Beside the Sea by Veronique Olmi is a haunting and fragmented tale that leaves readers immersed in a web of broken logic and misguided love. It’s one of those special books that clings to your bones.
It begins with a mother and her two sons on a trip to the sea. “I wanted us to set off totally believing in it,” she says, setting the stage for a story that is doomed from the start. The mother wants to give her sons a happy memory of the ocean, but the trip is poorly planned, filled with gaps, and led by a character who contracts and expands in and out of mental illness. The book covers only a single day, but it provides a picture of the character’s lives that is very whole. Each scene hinges on the mother’s ability to navigate her world with a clear mind. Even sitting inside a cafe sipping hot chocolate or buying food from the store becomes an impossible task. Olmi guides us through these scenes in a way that is believable, yet tragic, ultimately propelling readers toward a chilling climax.
Beside the Sea is a delicious treat. Written in a palette that is dark and damp, this little book exposes a world that is as delicate as it is dangerous. I devoured it in a single sitting.