A Jealous Tide
A novel by Anna MacDonald
A restless woman upends her world, abandoning her domestic inertia to seek refuge in a foreign hemisphere. Purposefully unsettled on the labyrinthine streets of London, she assembles a new routine amid the afterglow of a story from a century earlier. A traumatised widow, doubly bereaved, threw herself into the icy Thames. A shell-shocked soldier, heading home from war, gave himself to the depths to save her. Now disoriented by slippages in time as well as place, the woman begins imagining her own presence in the lives of these two strangers entwined by fate. But as her days blur together, as her intrigue becomes obsession, and as her sympathies grow to encompass all manner of souls lost to water — drowned, shipwrecked, cast adrift, or driven to the poles of the planet — she feels her restlessness returning with all the power of a tide in flood.
In this mesmerising début novel, Anna MacDonald finds a language of perpetual motion for an almost static experience of interior life. Lyrical, lilting, and melodious, her gentle words rise into rhythms that surge forth, then break and recede, leaving treasures in their wake. Hers is the poetry of alienation embodied: corporeal and sensory, spatial and recursive, making magic from a tilt of the head, a turn of the gaze, a stride, a halt, an interplay of gesture and orientation. In her dizzying proliferation of spirals and orbits, trajectories and bearings, her every sentence is a search for traction on a world that bewilders anew with every daily revolution.
Anna MacDonald is a writer and bookseller based in Melbourne, Australia, and a Splice masthead contributor. She has previously reviewed for 3 AM Magazine and the Sydney Review of Books, and she also writes for the Australian Book Review. Her collection of essays, Between the Word and the World, was published by Splice in 2019.
Read excerpts from A Jealous Tide:
Watch and listen to Anna MacDonald read from A Jealous Tide:
Watch and listen to Anna MacDonald in conversation with Daniel Davis Wood, discussing A Jealous Tide and Between the Word and the World:
Praise for A Jealous Tide
There’s a liquid quality to A Jealous Tide — that is, one that’s echoed in its interest in the unconscious and its workings, and in the slippery nature of the deep loneliness and grief at its centre. … It is a compelling and unsettling book, and one that is both beautifully ambitious and remarkably assured.Fiona Wright
The Saturday Paper
Finely-observed detail makes [A Jealous Tide] a lingering pleasure to read. It’s not a pacy, suspenseful book; the narrative folds into itself in a recursive fashion. … It is languorous in tone and possessed of a quiet intensity. … MacDonald brings together tales of displacement and anchoring, of shifting ground and the difficulty, nay impossibility, of coming home intact and undamaged in A Jealous Tide. These heavyweight themes are lifted by the grace of the prose, and by its beguiling narrator who’s forever ‘being still’, distracted in the recesses of her mind, and yet ‘still moving’, traipsing around the streets and river-bound in search of release, inspiration and wonder.Thuy On
Sydney Review of Books
An exquisite short novel… A Jealous Tide is Anna MacDonald’s début, but it doesn’t read like one; it reads like the work of a writer at the top of her game after spending many years perfecting her craft. She writes with a painterly eye, immersing the reader in the twin landscapes of urban Melbourne and riverside London… A Jealous Tide is a clear candidate for my annual Best Books of the Year.Lisa Hill
[A Jealous Tide] telegraphs a kind of foreboding, an oncoming macabre revelation; but its omens are implied rather than explicit (and all the more haunting for it). It is a novel of interiority, diaristic and narrated primarily through the first person, with all the close-up familiarity this affords. MacDonald’s writing glitters with lapidary detail [and] a belief in the transformative power of noticing: the idea that, in registering and writing down what we see, we enliven it.Declan Fry
Kill Your Darlings
Elusory and richly evocative… The prose is a lavish array of imagery. This is an impressive piece of writing that pulls together a story of displacement and the struggle to survive life’s challenges. An intense but deeply satisfying read.Jackie Law
An hypnotic novel about rivers and memories, walking and cities, motion and stillness. MacDonald’s writing is glorious, finding rich metaphors in tiny moments.Michael Livingston