Haweswater by Sarah Hall (response to Historical Tapestry's Alphabet Challenge)
This fortnight's letter H finds itself in the title and the author's name in this novel of how the progress of man can forever change a landscape. In England in 1936, the installation of a dam means the destruction of a small town. Hall chronicles the last year of the doomed town and the unlikely romance of the tomboyish young advocate for its salvation and the government man whose job is to make its transition into oblivion as easy as possible.
The premise is beautiful. Haunting and yet solidly grounded in historical fact, the story of the town that disappeared beneath the water captured my attention. And Hall's writing is evocative and complex, as well, turning many lovely phrases.
However. I had a very difficult time feeling attached to the characters. While the place is conjured with startling immediacy, I could not say the same for the characters, whose rustic wisdom and strong personalities should have meant quick connection. For my part, I felt a distance that did not diminish over the course of the book.
I also had a problem with the predictability of Hall's story. Now, forshadowing in its place is a wonderful device that hints at something to come and gives the reader a fulfilling satisfaction when that something comes to fruition, but most of the major twists of the plot were laid out with such clarified guessability beforehand that the plot failed to take me along for the ride and left me a mere observer.
In whole, though, the real gem within this story is how Hall weaves real, otherwise obscured, events into a novel, giving us a glimpse of a forgotten place in time. Worth a read to discover this place, forever gone.