Sara Baume’s exceptional debut novel has picked up nominations for the Costa Book Awards and the Guardian First Book award amongst numerous rave reviews. Now, this moving, lyrical story of one man and his dog has earned a place on my bookshelf as one of my favourite books of recent years.
‘You’re Sellotaped to the inside pane of the jumble shop window. A photograph of your mangled face…’
The Spill Simmer Falter Wither of the book’s title are representative of the four seasons as it follows a year in the life of Ray, a 57 year old man who lives alone. Following the death of his father, Ray lives a solitary existence and feels ostracised from society. Then, a routine trip to town on a Tuesday leads Ray to ’One Eye’ a former badger baiting dog who lost his eye and lives in a rescue centre, at risk of being put to sleep due to his aggressive nature. However, Ray arrives as his saviour and One Eye too holds the key to save Ray. From this moment on their extraordinary companionship begins.
‘And here I am still, and here you are.’
Gradually, Ray and One Eye get used to each other, they gain each others trust and their relationship grows. Narrated by Ray the novel focuses on him addressing his dog. It is a beautifully written tale, and I loved the relationship that developed between the two, the way that One Eye’s presence enabled a lonely man to communicate. It is a brilliant example of how companionship can enhance and improve a person’s life. As a reader it was also great to get a glimpse inside Ray’s mind, to hear his story. This also made the story moving, and it was saddening to hear how quickly and easily Ray became alone. It is a poignant, harrowing portrayal of loneliness.
‘… I wonder have we grown to resemble one and another, as were supposed to.’
As Ray and One Eyes bond intensifies an unfortunate event threatens to ruin the lifestyle that the pair had built. It leads to an unlikely road trip with Ray leaving behind his home and everything he had ever known to keep One Eye safe. This results in more challenges for Ray. The problems he experiences when communicating with other people make life on the road difficult as they try to adapt to living in their car, and keeping out of harms way. Along the way we hear more of Ray’s thoughts on life, his gentle narration on the world, his descriptions of the simplest of things.
‘I hold our battering hearts together and you do not bite me, and I see how your wiped face is only as incomplete as I’ve ever know it to be.’
I adored this book. Sara Baume has a wonderful style of writing and the prose was beautiful and poetic. It is a poignant novel with a conclusion that stayed in my mind long after I had read the final page. It is a wonderful, harrowing story of loneliness, companionship and man’s best friend.