Searching for AmberSearching for Amber by David Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Searching for Amber by David Smith is a work of literary fiction. I have to declare an interest in that I read and reviewed this as a Goodreads Giveaway. I don’t enter these regularly, it is an occasional thing when I have little to do and as I was nursing a broken ankle I had time on my hands. I like to be adventurous with my reading and while most of the blurbs on Giveaways tell half the plot, this one drew my attention because it had only one sentence.
“Under the fluid metal of a steel-blue sky,
the body of a young woman strokes silently through the dawn waves… “
The book could have been about anything but it sounded intriguing enough to warrant filling in a few details and several days letter I received an email to say I had won, followed the same week by a copy of the paperback. I was in the mood for a spot of late night reading, my Kindle batteries had gone flat too, so I started on my prize – and prize it was!
To start things rolling, this book will not please those readers who want fast and furious action, it is thoughtful, has a long exposition and descriptive passages, many of which are exquisitely written. The first chapters are apparently exposition and are full of the minutiae a visual artist would capture. The use of the present tense puts us very much in “the Now” as well as in the mind of Jade. It is those early chapters that introduce the basic premise and main characters of the story.
I don’t want to write a review that either tells the story or deals in spoilers, but the novel deals with the intimate and largely unknown links between these characters. There is much of loss and tragedy in these pages, love, betrayal and suicide are also themes. The shift between time periods is emphasized by shifts in tense between past and present. The author is fond of the present tense and handles it well. I was impressed by the way he draws action out in an almost dreamlike state. I also like the use of poetry.
It was only when I reached the end that I realized the perfect symmetry of the plot and how well that sentence “Under the fluid metal of a steel-blue sky, the body of a young woman strokes silently through the dawn waves… “ becomes a sort of leitmotiv for the work. The sea moves almost like a character itself throughout the story.
Another theme that runs through the story nicely is the theme of searching for Amber. The cover has an amber blonde Jade in the foreground with two children beachcombing in the background. They are searching for amber, which features in an item of jewellery and also is the name of a very important character. I leave you to find the link! This is a book for readers who love thoughtful books that go that little more deeply into descriptions, motives and the interaction of character and landscape. I would recommend it to lovers of literary fiction and I am very grateful to have received a review copy of such a thoughtful work.

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poems about the sea

The dedication for A Child at the Sea reads “For Gilly on her birthday at Garwick…” Now Gilly was a good friend of mine, a poet herself, and I met her on the Care2 network in 2004 or 2005. Gilly was older than I, but very much in touch with her inner child and that inspired me to write the following poem, A Child at the Sea. It details my own childhood experiences of living near the sea on the South coast of England and was meant to create a magical picture that I hoped Gilly would enjoy. She, at the time, was visiting a mutual friend on the Isle on Man and was enjoying her own childhood memories of Garwick.

My poem was not written for a child except for my own inner child who, to her utmost disgrace, refuses to stop playing.

A Child at the Sea

Somewhere a clock chimes three…
A seagull’s cry,
Like plaintive ghost,
Pierces a slow dawning sky,
And here I lie…
A child suspended,
Caught in that magic hour ‘twixt night and day.
Nor wake, nor sleep,
But race the innocent dreams of freedom…
And in my mind,
So old in one so young,
Down to the pebble beach I fly…
The scent of the breeze,
Fragrance of shellfish, tar, and the salt sea,
Plays havoc with my senses.
The boats lie idle,
Captains roll the deep sleep of sated pleasure,
Dreaming of rum, and ale,
And Siren songs of the night before…
A symphony of shingle;
Waves pulling,
And the rush and roar
Of tide on stone,
Soft water – tunnelling ancient rock –
Moulds, shapes and plays;
Itself a child on some forgotten shore…
As lone crabs stalk,
Anemones flower…
What child of time
Could ever wish for more?

10th May 2005