Read Regional book review: The Lost Art of Sinking by Naomi Booth

Dawn Tindle runs Book and Brew, which is a blog for readers, writers and book lovers. Throughout March she is our blogger-in-residence and will be posting articles about our various Read Regional events. First up, she reviews Naomi Booth’s The Lost Art of Sinking

The Lost Art of Sinking is the debut novella by Yorkshire writer and English Literature lecturer, Naomi Booth. At first I thought it was going to be a teenage coming-of-age story of self-discovery and dangerous experimentation, given the extract on the book jacket:

‘Some call it the Fainting Game, others Indian Headrush – but it’s all the rage amongst the girls in Class 2B. “It makes you go all rushy. You feel like you’re falling into a dream…”’

In fact, it’s much more than that.

The story follows Esther. She is obsessed with exploring ways to pass out – from her teenage headrushes to more dangerous activities (exsanguination, autoasphyxiation) as an adult. Each attempt reveals more about Esther’s mindset and circumstances, with every journey into oblivion taking her closer to the memory of her dead mother.

The Lost Art of Sinking is a deep, tender and profound narrative about loss and control. Esther uses the ‘beautiful blurring’ of sinking to reach a state of euphoria, of unconsciousness, where the brutal realities of her world no longer matter. She also uses it as a means of exercising control – over her mind and body – in order to counteract the things that are imposed upon her.

Connections between Esther and her mother are explored throughout, and they climax when we learn of the true circumstances of her mother’s death. Booth unravels this discovery subtly, and uses it as a device for illustrating the differences in perspective between Esther and her father. It works beautifully and there are some exquisite lines (which I can’t reference without giving away the plot!) that make it a thoughtful and powerful scene.

Booth’s writing has an ethereal quality to it, with a delicate, seamless coherence, even when describing something as ephemeral as ‘sinking’. She manages to tackle complex and complicated issues without being overbearing or losing the lacy gentility of her swooning narrative.

The beauty of this book is its malleability. A reader can transpose their own meaning onto the emotional canvas Booth has offered to them. Whether you are grieving, looking for meaning, escapism or understanding, there is solace between these pages.

While this is a compact novella (it’s only 138 pages) it is a deep and meaningful piece of writing. I really warmed to Booth’s style and thought it worked well as a vessel for exploring ideas about loss, control and escape. It was a wonderful introduction to Booth’s work and, after reading The Lost Art of Sinking, I’d certainly pick up her next book. / @Bookandbrew

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