A review by abbie_
Saltwater, by Jessica Andrews

emotional reflective medium-paced
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


 I have been utterly, utterly spoilt with my January reads, and it’s not over yet! This was my FIFTH five star read of the month if you can believe it (out of around 16 so far), and I for one hope the good times will keep on coming! And clearly they will for Jessica Andrews as this book WON the Portico Prize!
If I were to rate this ‘objectively’ I’d probably give it 4 stars, but then who the fuck rates and reviews a book objectively? It’s all about how it makes you feel and how you connect with it personally, and this book felt like it was written for me and so it gets ALL THE STARS! Plus, the writing is absolutely stunning.
A lot Saltwater is reflected in Andrews’ own life. Like her protagonist, she grew up in working class Sunderland and felt like she wanted something else (not more, just else), and then spent time living in London and Donegal, as she has Irish roots. Lucy muses on what home means to her, especially when she doesn’t feel at home in London at uni but when she comes back up North she no longer feels at home there either. That’s when she decides to explore her Irish roots and moves to her grandfather’s cottage in a tiny town by the coast. When I spoke to Andrews for an interview, she said she’s since learned that home is inside of us, something we carry around wherever we end up, and I just loved that.
The style is experimental and poetic, and across two pages we might have sections from Lucy’s childhood in the North East, her grandmother’s adolescence, her time at uni, and her Irish present. The non linear timeline works very well, but it’s clearly split into sections so it doesn’t get too overwhelming and you can always centre yourself in the narrative.
It’s raw and heartbreaking and gutwrenching, and reading about Lucy’s childhood was often like reading about my own. Jessica also said in that interview that when she was younger she didn’t feel like her life was ‘worth much’ coming from the North East, and she wanted to show that there is poetry in everyone’s story, even if you dare to hail from outside of London.