Souvenirs de la marée basse by Chantal Thomas
Multiple award-winning author Chantal Thomas is mostly known for her bestselling historical novels, The Exchange of Princesses (Other Press) and Farewell, My Queen: A Novel (Astria Books) being prime examples. Souvenirs de la marée basse intertwines the realm of memory with that of the sea as the author delves into her relationship with her mother.
The opening scene shows us Chantal in Nice, swimming in the sea as a thunderstorm looms over the beach. This violation of common sense brings back the memory of a different transgression, one committed by her mother when she was a teenager: bicycling in the gardens of Versailles and stopping only to take a dip in the Grand Canal, entirely oblivious to this daunting symbol of power.
Slowly, an image forms, gaining in clarity as the narrrative progresses, of a woman who conceives of swimming as “a solitary ritual, a survival manual, and a style manifesto”
As Thomas collects the sensual memories of her childhood in a coastal town, she executes an impressionistic portrait of her mother–this distant, withdrawn, often forgetful and whimsical person. Thoughtfully and modestly, she explores her own inherited passion for swimming, which might constitute her most precious legacy.
Souvenirs de la marée basse, a novel by Chantal Thomas, Points Seuil