Chosen by Lynne Truss
Lynne Truss’ newest novel, A Shot in the Dark, is a murder mystery set in 1957 in an English seaside resort town. Below, the British journalist, TV presenter, and author of the international best-seller Eats, Shoots & Leaves names six favorite seaside tales.
My Policeman by Bethan Roberts (2012). The sea, the sea! In how many books does the transition from safe dry land to bobbing about in salt water take the reader’s breath away? Set in Brighton, England, in the 1950s, My Policeman is an exquisite examination of a love triangle, and contains the most memorable encounter with the chilly English Channel I’ve ever read. I can still feel the shock and slap of those waves on my body.
The Great Western Beach by Emma Smith (2008). This wonderful memoir is a miracle in many senses, written when the author was in her 80s. Her childhood in the 1920s was by no means idyllic, but her town’s windy beach and its seaside activities kept the parents from quarreling, which was all that mattered.
Death in Venice by Thomas Mann (1912). It is not always a good idea to get into the water. Sometimes it’s better just to watch others…or is it? Mann investigates, in a tale of unconsummated desire sparked by an encounter on a beach on Venice’s Lido.
Jaws by Peter Benchley (1974). Sometimes, as I said, better just not to go in.
‘At the Bay’ by Katherine Mansfield (1922; published in The Garden Party and Other Stories). I had read a lot of Katherine Mansfield before I even started on Virginia Woolf, and I’ve always preferred Mansfield. This long story, set near her native Wellington, New Zealand, is wonderfully atmospheric and sensuous, and alive to sensations—especially to those of swimming. The morning sea in the antipodes is evidently more inviting than the green, choppy stuff we get on the south coast of England.
The Crime Writer by Jill Dawson (2016). This fantastic novel, imagining the period when crime writer Patricia Highsmith lived in a small English cottage, sweeps you up—just as Highsmith did herself—on a high tide of guilt and fear, and includes a nighttime scene of our heroine immersed in the North Sea, clumsily committing a dead body to the black waves. Have I mentioned that I am terrified to go into the sea myself? Again, a masterly description explains why. ■