The River Singers by Tom Moorhouse
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Rich, genuine and warm-hearted, ‘The River Singers’ is such a lovely book. Moorhouse, as evidenced by this book and also the talk I was privileged to hear him give at the FCBG Conference in 2015, knows the riverside world very well. In this, his debut novel, we are with the River Singers – a family of water voles who live on the side of the river.
The presentation of the water vole’s world is beautifully done; everything feels right. In fact, I think that idea of feeling is key when it comes to a discussion of The Water Singers. You feel so much of this text; it is full of palpable richness. From the teasing chatter of the siblings through to the nobility of the river; you feel it. You’re immersed, very instantly, and very richly into a book that sings of Colin Dann, Richard Adams and of The Wind in the Willows. There’s also a place for this text, with its very specific rural evocation of space, to be considered against something like the Last Wild trilogy by Piers Torday; a series which is both very much a part and apart from The River Singers.
There were a few moments where I would have welcomed the tezt to dwell more upon the moment. By this, I mean just allowing things to pause and hold for a moment before shifting onto the next ‘thing’ – it’s through the act of dwelling that the text gets to breathe and give space to its depth of feeling and of tone. I lost a few of the key plot points simply through not-quite-properly-reading them and had to backtrack at a few points to sufficiently connect all of the dots. Moorhouse’s writing is so gloriously solid that it deserves time to be enjoyed before moving onto the next moment of the sequence. Sequence. Ha. I do think of this book as a sequence, perhaps more so than others; it is a sinuous, entrancing curve of a book and it is one that is – just – good. Despite those brief lapses (and brief, I might add, is key here – I’m referring to only a couple of key moments), The River Singers is such a joy. It’s like a love letter to nature and it’s written with such vivid passion that it’s hard to ignore.
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