The Magazine

Love, Virtually

Is it a dream, or a marriage on the rocks?

Apr 15, 2013, Vol. 18, No. 29 • By ELISABETH EAVES
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“Look,” she said, “there in the centre where it’s still: turquoise, emerald, and where the waves rise, the inside of them, dark, almost black, but .  .  .” Obsidian, I said. A sheen like cut stone. “Yes!” she said, “like an old knife.” And then when they peak, sapphire, “into azure, into aquamarine .  .  .” 

If you don’t want to go to the Orkney Islands after reading this, you will at least have a vivid sense of their dark beauty. 

Eventually, readers who like their beautiful sentences served with a helping of plot may start to wish that one of the ancient tales the protagonists tell each other would come true, just to move things along. Perhaps the one about finfolk, “tall, gaunt sea-farers with narrow faces and hard dark eyes,” notorious seducers who “come ashore sometimes, to seek new wives upon the land,” and who later return to reclaim the children they’ve fathered with humans.

At the same time, the reader may begin to dread the possibility that something might happen because he or she has come to share Richard’s deep sense of foreboding. Anything that occurs, it seems to his anxious and feverish mind, is going to fulfill his worst fears and cheat him of his longed-for future.

It would be wrong to reveal what happens at the end. But this is not, in any case, a novel about what happens. Rather, it’s an exercise in using language to weave a dream state. Amy Sackville spins a beautiful web, but even she doesn’t seem to know if she wants us to wake up.

Elisabeth Eaves is the author, most recently, of Wanderlust: A Love Affair with Five Continents.