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The Crossing by Andrew Miller

The Crossing (edition 2015)

by Andrew Miller (Author)

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Title:The Crossing
Authors:Andrew Miller (Author)
Info:Sceptre (2015)
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The Crossing by Andrew Miller



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Tim and Maud meet through their university sailing club. Tim is a creative from a large and wealthy family, Maud is a scientist from a more modest background. They start a relationship and have a child but it is clear that Tim is more invested than Maud. When tragedy strikes, their relationship collapses and Maud decides to sail across the Atlantic in the boat that they have restored together.

Whilst the first half of the book recounts the relationship between Tim and Maud, the second part is solely about Maud. This is a clever device as for the first part the reader is rooting for Tim, Maud is not an empathetic character, her emotions are too closed off. The tattoo that Maud has on her arm sums it up - roughly translated as 'every man for himself' - Maud gives little away.

The second part of the book focuses on Maud's reaction to the loss of their child and how, after shutting herself off, she decides to sail away. The description of the voyage is exciting and beautiful and Maud's landing in a remote part of Brazil brings into fore the lack of maternal instinct.

In many ways I found this book like an alternative version of Waugh's 'A Handful Of Dust' - a mismatched couple, a death and an adventure - and whilst the ending is ambiguous there is still that sense of disappearing from the normal life. This is a haunting book, beautifully written and ultimately very satisfying. ( )
  pluckedhighbrow | Jun 26, 2017 |
gave up. endless descriptions of pretty girl sailing. no story to latch on to.
  MarilynKinnon | Apr 25, 2017 |
Although this book is set in a different epoch from Miller’s earlier work ‘Ingenious Pain’, I felt he was using a similar technique. Just as James Dyer, the man who can feel no pain in Miller’s first work is used to make a comment on humanity, so in this book the author uses Maud, a woman who seems devoid of any conventional feelings, to highlight flaws in society.

I’m not so sure I felt this was as successful this time. I almost felt as if Miller were sneering at contemporary reactions today. It’s not that I disagree with what he may well see as the shallowness of what he exposes but it’s the way it’s laid on. Maud’s parents, for example, are teachers and so, when their grand-daughter is born, ‘they bring a toy with them – coloured wooden blocks threaded onto curling wire, the whole thing screwed to a wooden base and designed to assist with hand-eye co-ordination, with motor control’. Why does Miller go into such detail about the toy? It’s no doubt to reduce the grandparents to very sensible people who can’t really think beyond their educative jobs – and as the book continues, the brief descriptions of the parents’ actions become even blunter. And Tim’s wealthy parents, especially the mother, are similarly criticised, this time for their extravagance, all made to seem really self-indulgent.

Initially I thought Tim was to be seen as the one Miller wants the reader to identify with and to like, but as the book unfolds, he too is subject to Miller’s criticism of conventionality, always ready to judge his parents for their drinking, but similarly ready to ask them for money to fund his choice of staying home with Zoe. And he’s made to sound inane in his devotion to his daughter. So, when she’s starting to walk, he “follows her at a respectful distance . . . ‘Whoops,’ he says returning her to her feet for the ninth, the tenth time. ‘Whoops’” As I have said, I think Miller is too aggressively overt in his damnation. His later treatment of Maud, as if she’s the culpable when he’s the one who should have more on his conscience, further pushes the reader to side with Maud.

In fact, the book seems to be split into three parts: living with Tim who then drops out of the book, ailing across the Atlantic and then staying with the abandoned children which is perhaps the most bizarre part, certainly the one making the most demands on the reader’s credulity with Jessica offering to help Maud if she can give herself.

I think that what’s oddest, though, is the change in Maud into a more sentient person – seemingly as a result of Theo and Jessica’s ritualistic cleansing her in the church where she takes hold of the snakes. I guess it’s not that different from what happens to James Dyer in ‘Ingenious Pain’ but here, set in modern times, it just seems a bizarre ritual which shouldn’t have had the outcome it did. And what about Maud hearing Zoe’s voice after she has died – on two or three occasions? Does miller want the reader to feel that Maud always had deeply felt emotions, unconventional though they might have been, or does he want to think that the basic make-up of his protagonist has changed?

The inconclusive ending with Maud jumping onto the train mirrors the inconclusiveness of the rest of the book. The realism of battling the storm in the Atlantic (Miller must be a sailor) isn’t enough to balance the stretching of the reader’s belief elsewhere. ( )
  evening | Sep 8, 2015 |
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