All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Blog Tour Review: To The Sea by Christine Dibley

on January 6, 2017

to-the-seaTo The Sea
Christine Dibley
Pan Macmillan AUS
2016, 447p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

On a clear summer’s day, Detective Inspector Tony Vincent answers a call-out to an idyllic Tasmanian beach house. Surrounded by family and calm waters, seventeen-year-old Zoe Kennett has inexplicably vanished.

Four storytellers share their version of what has led to this moment, weaving tales which span centuries and continents. But Tony needs facts, not fiction: how will such fables lead him to Zoe and to the truth?

As Tony’s investigation deepens, he is drawn into a world where myth and history blur, and where women who risk all for love must pay the price through every generation.

This has to be one of the most fascinating books I’ve read in a long time. I’ve never been to Tasmania but it’s long been on my list of places I want to visit. Given it’s proximity to me in here in Victoria it’s also probably the most likely place on that list that I will actually visit one day. I read few books set here but it has so much potential and that potential has been well tapped here.

On a summer day young DI Tony Vincent gets a call to investigate the disappearance of a teenager, believed possibly drowned off the south Tasmanian coast. When he arrives there, he finds things very confusing. There are a large number of people staying at the house for the holidays but with the exception of perhaps the missing girl’s mother, no one else seems either a) overly concerned or b) stricken with grief at the thought of their missing sister/cousin/etc. The more DI Vincent digs into this situation, the stranger it becomes. Although one must always respect the danger of the sea, by all reports the missing girl, Zoe is an exceptional swimmer. And the conditions on the day she vanished were calm. No one actually saw her go into the water and when he calls out the divers, they’re very convinced that if something did happen to Zoe, they can ascertain the location very easily. Numerous searches bring more questions than answers….and no body.

The story is told by four people: Tony as he investigates, Zoe’s older sister, her father and her mother. Tony is warned that Zoe’s mother Eva is “fragile” or possibly unwell. Her reality may not be the reality Tony is used to. But as the days tick by and there’s no sign of Zoe, Tony begins to hear Eva’s story and in that, the story of Zoe.

The stories spun in this book are so intricate and involved and it’s utterly impossible not to be drawn into them. Eva tells the story of the women in her family going back many generations, a tale of myth and legend and strange happenings. It’s not something that I haven’t read before but this seemed to put a new and fresh kind of spin on it, finding a way to incorporate it into a contemporary world in a unique way. I don’t think it’s easy to blend this sort of mythical element into a modern day setting but Christine Dibley accomplishes this so well. The way in which the story slowly unfolds kind of alongside Tony’s investigation makes it feel quite a natural evolution.

There is a lot of blurring of the lines in this book as Tony’s ideas of what is fact and what is fiction slowly evolves as time moves on and there’s still no sign of Zoe. He’s told some impossible-to-believe things by people who swear they are telling the truth and saw it with their own eyes. There’s no sign of Zoe, alive or her body, where the currents would’ve taken her if she’d truly gotten into trouble where it was that she was believed to go missing. Despite the fact that no one saw her go down to the beach, most of her family continues to believe that she got into trouble in the bay on a quiet night and drowned. I tend to think along the same lines as Tony so my evolution almost ran alongside of his as I got deeper into the story and became more and more invested in the unusual tale of Zoe and Eva’s female lineage. In stark contrast, Zoe’s older sister is not a believer in any of the stories and seems the most convinced of all that her sister has drowned.

The writing is beautiful and evocative. The setting of the Tasmanian coast was stunning and the description of the family’s beachside mansion made me feel like I was there. But it was more than that, the whole book was able to spin a mood, a real atmosphere of mystery and intrigue. That little bit of magic in a way, that made me want to be involved with this family. Despite the fantastical element they felt very real, with the normal quirks and foibles that any family has. Discord, separation, jealousy but also love. A large age gap between Zoe and her siblings meant that none of them really seemed to know her very well at all, to the point where Tony questions everything he’s every been told since he arrived at the house. I really enjoyed the character of Tony and his approach to the investigation. He seems very young to be a DI but he’s very methodical and despite his easy going demeanor he isn’t easily intimidated or put off by people who don’t want to answer his questions or by his own superior.

I really really enjoyed this book….from the very first page. I think I read it in almost a single sitting because I didn’t want to put it down. This is a remarkable debut and I really look forward to Christine Dibley’s next book.


Book #217 of 2016



3 responses to “Blog Tour Review: To The Sea by Christine Dibley

  1. Deborah says:

    Great review and it was beautifully written, wasn’t it?!

  2. Marlin1 says:

    I can’t wait to read this one, I’m glad to hear you enjoyed it. Have reserved this from the library but that might take ages to come to me!

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