Book Review: Time’s Tide by Adrian Harvey

A moving exploration of the relationship between father and son set in a picturesque landscape.” 

 Father and son, Erikur and Arni, struggle to overcome the emotional distance between them. Each is drawn inexorably to an unforgiving landscape, one that has witnessed both tragedy and loss. After abandoning the northern shore as a young man, Arni’s return offers the hopeful possibility of healing the rift with his father. But is it too late? Arni left his isolated corner of Iceland as soon as he could, seeking opportunities beyond fishing and the bitterly cold winter. He endeavoured to escape his homeland by marrying an English woman and building a life as a successful scientist. However, he has never been able to resist the pull of the West Fjords and bleak environment of his childhood, nor rid himself of the guilt he feels towards his distant father.  When Erikur goes missing, Arni sets off to find him on a desolate spit of land lost in an angry ocean. Will he be able to find him?   

The structure of this book is a little unusual in its chapter form in that it jumps around between different times, stretching as far back as the 1950s and up to 2012. Whilst at first disorienting, it is a very effective way of building the characters; you get to see the family history and background which gives you greater understanding and depth of the characters. You gradually comprehend why Erikur and Arni feel and behave the way they do in later years because of what happened in the past. 

The landscape is vividly and beautifully described, and as I love all things Scandinavian, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel; I felt totally transported to the Icelandic Fjords. Despite the beauty of this part of the world, there is a barrenness and harshness to the environment, with bitterly cold and cruel winters that make survival incredibly difficult. There is a deadly undertone beneath this picturesque terrain, almost as if the land and nature has a conscious mind of its own with which to test its inhabitants. 

Time’s Tide explores the passage of time, family relations and loss. I felt great sympathy for Erikur having lost both his grandfather and brother; he can never escape these losses as they return to haunt him for the rest of his life, and he is forever grieving for them. This explains why he holds his son, Arni, so close because he is filled with the parental fear of losing a child. It is simultaneously sad and heart-warming to read as Arni tries to heal the relationship with his father. Despite the difficulty of repairing their bond, their attempt to do so offers hope that all is not lost to others experiencing the same thing.   

It is easy to understand Arni’s compulsion to leave his isolated home of the Fjords and experience life elsewhere. It is barren, bleak and desolate, with few prospects of employment besides fishing, certainly not the opportunities to pursue his passion for science. Arni symbolises what it means to leave your roots behind and how you are always pulled back to them. Even years later, you never truly leave them behind or forget them because they are part of who you are. 

Overall, Time’s Tide is a moving exploration of the relationship between father and son. It considers the passage of time and loss, and how the passing of the years does nothing to quell grief.  Set in a picturesque landscape, you will be geographically and emotionally transported. 

Rating: 4/5     

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