The Coral Bride by Roxanne Bouchard (tr. by David Warriner) #BookReview #BlogTour

 


It’s not just the sea that holds secrets…
When an abandoned lobster trawler is found adrift off the coast of Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula, DS Joaquin Moralès begins a straightforward search for the boat’s missing captain, Angel Roberts – a rare female in a male-dominated world. But Moralès finds himself blocked at every turn – by his police colleagues, by fisheries bureaucrats, and by his grown-up son, who has turned up at his door with a host of his own personal problems.
When Angel’s body is finally discovered, it’s clear something very sinister is afoot, and Moralès and son are pulled into murky, dangerous waters, where old resentments run deep.
Exquisitely written, with Bouchard’s trademark lyrical prose, The Coral Bride evokes the power of the sea on the communities who depend on it, the never-ending struggle between the generations, and an extraordinary mystery at the heart of both.

I'm delighted to be hosting the blog tour for The Coral Bride today, many thanks to Roxanne Bouchard, Orenda Books and Anne Cater for inviting me and for my advance copy of the novel.

The Coral Bride is the sequel to We Were The Salt of the Sea and while it's not necessary to have read that first, I would encourage you to do so in order to fully appreciate this beautifully crafted series. 
The Coral Bride is a murder mystery and it opens with the murder of Angel Roberts; her death is described with the lyricism that imbues this whole book - which somehow serves to make it even more chilling. However, this is a multi-layered story and although the search for the truth about Angel's death is as important as you'd expect, it is also an evocative, thoughtful exploration of families and communities. 
When DS Joaquin Moralès' doorbell rings at around six in the morning, he muses that it's seldom good news but rookie cop, Joannie Robichaud hasn't come with news of a case; his son, Sébastien has arrived unexpectedly on the Gaspé Peninsula and his heavy drinking  - and driving - has brought him to the attention of the local police. Moralès attempts to book a holiday to spend time with his son but is instead informed he is needed to investigate a missing woman in Gaspé. He is initially reluctant to become involved in what is not at this point a homicide but after visiting one of my favourite characters from We Were The Salt of the Sea, the dying Cyrille Bernard, he realises that this isn't just a woman - she is somebody's daughter.
The relationship between Joaquin and Sébastien is central to the novel but much of their respective stories are told separately which underlines just how far they have drifted apart. This is a book about families but it's also about secrets, communication and the stories we tell - to ourselves and to others. Moralès has protected his family from the worst of his job by constructing barriers around himself but he realises that stifling the inner turmoil has resulted in him  'Burying the seed of human suffering deep inside himself, only for it to sprout, take hold of the silence he'd created and grow into a tree of solitude.' The chapters which follow Moralès as he investigates first the disappearance and then the death of Angel Roberts are perhaps the more intriguing aspects of the story but Sébastien's problems with his long-time girlfriend and his frustration at not being able to express himself fully to his father help to give this captivating tale its heart. 
The exquisite writing here is as irresistible a lure as anything used by the fishermen and David Warriner's excellent translation loses none of its rich poeticism. The measured pace of the plot allows for the vibrant cast of characters to each make their mark on the story and ensures that the prevalence of red herrings is entirely convincing and particularly appropriate in a book which features the sea almost as a character in its own right. It's also striking that while the crafts used at sea are often referred to using female pronouns, there is a misogynistic reluctance by the community to accept the women who make their living from it and though this is a novel about a father and son, it is also about the strength of these women.
Various secrets and long-held animosities gradually come to light and when the investigation eventually comes to its powerful conclusion, the truth is as poignant as it is terrible. It's fascinating to realise that this community which is both insular in nature and yet frequently at odds with itself over fishing rights and family dynamics perhaps owes its unique identity to the compelling dichotomy of the sea which supplies physical and spiritual nourishment while also being a constant danger and a merciless killer. 
The Coral Bride isn't a book to rush, it needs to be savoured and for the reader to experience that sense of being immersed by writing which is as potent and unforgettable as the waves that inspired it. I thought it was wonderful and highly recommend it.

The Coral Bride is published by Orenda Books, purchasing links can be found here but please consider supporting independent bookshops whenever possible, either by buying directly or by ordering through bookshop.org.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour, details are below.


About the Author

Ten years or so ago, Roxanne Bouchard decided it was time she found her sea legs. So she learned to sail, first on the St Lawrence River, before taking to the open waters off the Gaspé Peninsula. The local fishermen soon invited her aboard to reel in their lobster nets, and Roxanne saw for herself that the sunrise over Bonaventure never lies. Her fifth novel (first translated into English) We Were the Salt of the Sea was published in 2018 to resounding critical acclaim. She lives in Quebec.

About the Translator
David Warriner translates from French and nurtures a healthy passion for Franco, Nordic and British crime fiction. Growing up in deepest Yorkshire, he developed incurable Francophilia at an early age. Emerging from Oxford with a modern languages degree, he narrowly escaped the graduate rat race by hopping on a plane to Canada – and never looked back. More than a decade into a high-powered commercial translation career, he listened to his heart and turned his hand again to the delicate art of literary translation. David has lived in France and Quebec, and now calls beautiful British Columbia home.

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