Never mind the tide, Stovell may turn you into a chic lit fan...
I’ll be honest; I’m not a fan of “chic lit”. It’s not my cup of tea, at all. So it was hard to take a dispassionate and objective view of Turning the Tide, given my own personal prejudices; but I tried to keep an open mind and to my chagrin (not to mention some ribbing from those who know me), discovered that whilst this genre may be ridiculously predictable, not all chic lit is full of lacy thongs and rippling muscles.
Turning the Tide is the love story of an unlikely couple: Harry and Matthew. Harry is a boy in everything but her gender: from the unflatteringly poor fitting dungarees, to her hacked hair; chipped nails and masculine job running a boat yard, she is supposed to be the antithesis to femininity. Matthew, on the other hand, is a self-assured yuppie-type property developer with the haughty, egocentric girlfriend who has no time for anywhere north of London. That the two should ever meet would usually spell disaster; and the fact that Matthew strolls into the backwater seaside village of Little Spitmarsh determined to buy out Harry’s boat yard and build a complimentary luxury development for his swanky new restaurant, sparks a rivalry that is based on mutual attraction and self-denial.
Aside from the rather obvious miscommunication and ‘will-they-won’t-they’ that permeates everything, the author rather kindly allows us a dalliance into the realm of the world outside of Harry and Matthew’s head-butting via the bizarre relationship between Little Spitmarsh’s own gay couple: Frankie and Trevor, as well as the plausible frustrations of teenage life in the back of beyond courtesy of Lola. The actual battle of wills over Harry’s land is a humdrum and the least interesting aspect of the narrative. As for the family ‘secret’; when finally outed, is not only anticlimactic, but is the stuff of ridiculous melodramatics that this novel had managed to avoid on the whole. And yet, I still found myself enjoying it. The menagerie of randy dogs, domestic distress (with some over-sexed parents thrown in for good measure) and old seadogs somehow make this more than the sum of its parts. Perhaps it is the sincerity of the characters, their flaws depicted with equal parts realism and sensitivity; or it could be that I’m just a sucker for a happy ending. Either way, Turning the Tide made me relook at chic lit with a fresh perspective and whilst it may never be my favourite genre, I’ll be less likely to turn my nose up at it in future.
We interview C J Daugherty about Night School
- 10 January 2012