In his second novel, The Stone Tide: Adventures at the End of the World, Gareth E. Rees’s narrator moves with his wife and children to an old, crumbling house in Hastings by the sea. As the renovation demands more work than they initially had thought, the dream of a lovely new home begins to fall apart, as does their marriage. The narrator averts from marital problems by feeding his insatiable appetite for local history and previous residents, such as the occultist Aleister Crowley and John Logie Baird, the early inventor of what would later be known as the television. In a truly psychogeographic fashion, the narrator roams Hastings and, by doing so, shows wonderfully the influence that places can have on the human psyche. He imagines scenarios and creates narratives with the long-dead residents of the city, blurring the line between reality and imagination. Moreover, he is haunted by the death of a friend, still prevailing in his mind after decades. (Deceased male friends and brothers seems to be a popular subject in novels at the moment; see e.g. The Tree of the Toraja, Older Brother, The Language of Birds.) The Stone Tide is written with lively prose, accompanied by photos, and undulates between comedy (with some great one-liners like “there was something deeply sinister about a duck quacking at night”) and tragedy. Being a novel largely about a place, Rees conjures Hastings vividly, although parts of it might be more appreciated by someone with first-hand experience of the city. And, while it might not leave the longest of aftertastes, The Stone Tide is absorbingly readable. As humanists in academia are increasingly interested in spatiality, Gareth E. Rees shows concretely what the spaces and places we roam can do to us as human beings.
The Stone Tide: Adventures at the End of the World, 364 pp, is published by Influx Press in March 2018.