Spill, Simmer, Falter, Wither: Sara Baume

by Team Riverside

Sara Baume SPILL SUMMER FALTER WITHERI first picked up this book because of the high praise from Eimear McBride and because of the title which seemed to herald the type of word-play found in McBride’s own extraordinary debut A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing. Spill, Simmer, Falter, Wither really is inventive: the title, for instance, refers to the seasons, both onomatopoeically and metaphorically lending itself to the words: ‘spring’, ‘summer’, ‘autumn,’ and ‘winter’. Then there are Baume’s unusual coinages (‘spork’), metaphors (‘hedgehogs of moss’) and constructions, which lend the prose urgency and immediacy. Take the opening passage, for instance:

He is running, running, running.
And it’s like no kind of running he’s ever run before. He’s the surge that burst the dam and he’s pouring down the hillslope, channelling through the grass to the width of his widest part. He’s tripping into hoof-rucks. He’s slapping groundsel stems down dead. Dandelions and chickweed, nettles and dock.

Baume has also devised an original strategy for relaying the dog’s past : through the man’s dreams, while simultaneously linking the two characters’ consciousness, journey and fate.

This novel is not as original or as dazzling as McBride’s, but perhaps because of that, it is more accessible and will appeal to a wider array of readers. Baume’s narrative of an unlikely friendship between a lonely, damaged man and an abused, runaway dog is atmospheric, moving and fearless in its exploration of just how dark life can be. A wonderful book, though not for the faint-hearted.

Review by Emily

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