Book Review: The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
Scrapbooking: Some Backward Glances, Some Looking Forward

Book Review: Of Salt and Shore

The girl knows, though, that remembering can be difficult. She always has so much inside her head: songs, stories, things she has to learn, things she wants to forget but that keep coming back. When she needs to remember something, she often forgets it, but she always remembers whatever she wants to forget.

Of salt and shoreI picked up Of Salt and Shore by Annet Schaap on the recommendation of my friend Holly. I hadn’t heard of it before she posted about it on her year-in-review Facebook post in late December, and although I had 18 or 19 other books checked out, I decided I needed to read it in the few days before 2021 ended.

It tells the story of Lampie (whose real name is Emelia), who lives on a little island in a bay, taking care of a lighthouse with her father. “With” in a lose sense; basically he drinks and mourns for his wife while she keeps things going. When she runs out of matches on the night of a storm and can’t light the lamp, disaster ensues. She and her father are blamed for it, and her punishment is to be sent to work at the Black House, the estate of the Admiral, which is dank and dirty and dark—and also rumored to hold a monster.

I loved many things about this book. It blends several familiar stories to make a different whole: Beauty and the Beast, The Secret Garden, The Little Mermaid. Lampie is imaginative and smart but not very confident, and her interactions with Fish, the rumored monster, help her find her voice. He teaches her to read and write, which is a great gift for her, but it is when she stands up to him—in a very Mary Lennox-ish way) that she comes into herself. One of my favorite parts of the story is when she goes to the fair and meets the Freaks from the circus tent; especially since this is a book for younger readers (9-12ish), I loved the message of accepting people for who they are, even if it’s a bit startling. I loved the way most of the stories get tied up in the end.

Plus it has some beautiful illustrations at the start of each chapter.

But, one thing bothered me enough that it took away from my enjoyment of the book. One of the reasons that Lampie is taken away from her father is that he hits her with a stick in front of a teacher. We do see his remorse after this happens, but that isn’t the only way he abused her. Putting the responsibility of the lighthouse onto her little shoulders, neglecting her, taking her out of school so she could take care of him: these are also forms of abuse. In the end, Lampie goes back to her father. He gives her a half-assed apology and she—she just says “It’s OK, Daddy.”

No.

Again, thinking about the audience for this book, I think this interaction needed to be much more detailed. Many of the threads in the book work towards forgiveness, but it is the parents and adults who need it, and none of them really work for it. Fish’s father doesn’t. The citizens of the town don’t. And Lampie’s father definitely doesn’t. I think that a book written for younger readers should highlight an adult taking responsibility for their actions rather than the child having to just get over the impact of those actions.

That said, I did really love this book. It was a good way to end my 2021 reading year. (Although I'm posting it in 2022, I finished it in 2021.)

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