OH MY GOODNESS , no strike that OH MY GODFATHERS!
Hold Back The Tide is intensely brilliant, absolutely extraordinary, compelling and captivating and it’s an absolute crime that it launched amidst the beginning of lockdown.
Melinda Salisbury has been lauded for her court fantasies The Sin Eaters Daughter and Sorrow books but this book takes a slightly different route with its historic Highland setting that starts out as a historical drama then takes a chilling supernatural turn.
Alva Douglas is the daughter of the Naomhfhuil, an ancient role as the Keeper of the Loch, the duty to maintain and observe the loch and keep record of its ebbs, flows, highs and lows.
Alva Douglas is also the daughter of the most hated man in Ormscaula, a man everyone suspects is responsible for the disappearance of Alva’s mother years ago. A man she is terrified of, and has been planning her escape…but something terrible is stirring as the waters of the loch are dropping.
It’s much cooler under the canopy of trees, the scent of resin and pine thick and clean. Again I think of the candy, and his tiny boyish face, the greed and fear on it, and I wonder if he remembers, or if he’s forgotten, like I had.
It’s hard not to discuss too much about this book without spoilers and I really don’t want to ruin this book for readers because it is SO deeply brilliant. What I will celebrate in all its glory is Melinda’s voice, a style that immerses you immediately in the environment of a historical Scottish Highlands.
The beauty of this rugged yet unforgiving landscape is always at the edge of the page, hardening people to survive juxtaposed against superstition and ancient tradition and the whispers of the cruel majesty of nature.
The timeframe is beautifully just blurred enough not to pinpoint an exact time but for those who know their history can take a guess from its reference to industrialised paper mills, horse drawn mail carts and shotguns. But the exact timing does not matter because it is the land at the heart of this book, the microcosm of the village, mountains and loch and their interdependence upon each other, and the homeostasis that is tipping into disaster.
Sleep comes in snatches, punctuated by terrible dreams…I wake between these nightmares and can hear my heart in my ears, as sweat cools on my skin. Each time is worse than the last as if my brain is trying to outdo itself.
Melinda’s writing has an exquisite beauty in even the most horrific of circumstances and incredibly pulses with both this epic wide landscape and claustrophobia of our heroine. A girl who has lived the last few years in absolute fear of her father whom after the disappearance of her mother she believes is a murderer; the strangling anxiety that envelopes her being, the rejection from the villagers, and rules she has conjured to keep alive clashing violently against the adolescent pangs to be free to explore and to be something other than the trapped child.
Themes explored include the concept of community, outsiders, greed, control, the poisoned nature of longing with a ecological undercurrent of the impact and consequences of industrialisation on nature, with an achingly powerful and exquisite development on the darker side of folktales.
“You should have told me”
Believe me I would love to tell you more and the books and films it beautifully evokes for me in that glowing way but all my references would give away the ABSOLUTE ingenuity of this outstanding and sublime book.
Regular readers are all aware that I am rather well read and I have a good wide and deep grip of literary and film culture and I have to say this was so fresh and exciting and resonant all at once, I was SO excited and immersed in every single word, my senses were constantly on fire, and Melinda, I fell so deeply in love with this book you made me feel like I was 16 again.
Melinda stirred my soul, broke my heart completely (UGH you have to read this!!) and thrilled me with Hold Back the Tide, it is utterly unforgettable and I am so very angry for her that it launched during this pandemic because this book has the power to reshape the genre in such an interesting way… and Melinda please, I’m begging you, I would LOVE a sequel set and referring to contemporary issues!!!
Sorry for the vagueness and fangirling, all I can add is PLEASE read this incredible book and discover for yourself!!!
Ok take this as the biggest take from my experience with this book, if I had to recommend one YA book this year, hands down it would be Hold Back the Tide, and possibly, it may be my YA recommendation for the decade.
Hold Back the Tide by Melinda Salisbury is published by Scholastic