Like Benjamin Myers’ A Stone Statue In The Future, it would be a stretch to describe Solesearcher1 as a book. It is Sara Baume’s first published work, a short story that won her the Davy Byrne Prize in 2014. I was kindly sent a digital copy (a format I struggle to engage with) so I printed and bound it to create a copy I can now keep on my shelves. A little book albeit a mere 17 pages in length.
The protagonist of the story is Phil, a plumber by trade like her father before her. Every Sunday she goes sea fishing, and it is during this pursuit that we are first introduced. She dreams of catching a Dover sole – ‘almost impossible to catch on a line from the shore.’
After work each evening Phil goes for a drink at a local pub. Few women other than she frequent the place. Phil lives alone in ‘a tiny terrace house on the seafront of a village’. In stormy weather the downstairs can flood. On Saturdays she visits her father. They share a bland meal and watch television together. Fishing is, however, what Phil cares about.
“Only on Sundays does she cease egging time on until the next thing. Only with saltwater pressing waist-high against her waders does she feel calm, comforted by the squeeze of the sea. Only waiting for a bite is she content to simply wait.”
As the story unfolds there is a mystery around dogs going missing. Distraught owners put up notices. It is discussed at the pub. Phil keeps an eye out for these creatures when driving to and from jobs. The winter weather is making her fishing more challenging. Surrounds are now viewed through a bleak lens.
“she feels very suddenly and very powerfully as though her world is dwindling away, morsel by morsel, without ever being replenished.”
As with the author’s later works – I have read Spill Simmer Falter Wither and Seven Steeples – the tale being told is well structured, spare and taut, while retaining reader attention. The evocative prose style lingers. Each character is well portrayed, adding depth to the narrative and acting as conduits to the sense of place. The denouement pulls the various threads together with a satisfying, somehow vividly understated, scene.
I very much enjoyed this story, as I have everything so far read by this author. I am now eager to acquire her remaining works.
My sincere thanks to David Collard for sending me a copy of Solesearcher1.