Gathering the Water is the first of Robert Edric's books that I am reading. If only I had known that his was such a beautifully understated style, I'd have converted long ago.
This book has been described as a "bleak, dreary novel"; I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. There is no physical drama to move the novel along, though one can always sense the build up to an awful disaster. Set in 1847, in the Forge Valley in north-eastern England (I assume the North York Moors is the area, but the key word is assume), at a period when the valley is about to be flooded by the dam built in the area, the novel's structure and sound echo the gloom that fills the valley. Charles Weightman is appointed by the dam construction company to oversee the clearing (eviction) of the valley and monitor the progress of the flooding. Weightman, who has just lost his fiancee, takes up the job with the intention of being far away from anything of his past. His only companion in the moors is Mary Latimer, widow, caretaker of a mad sister, woman battling her own demons.
Most of the action takes place in Weightman's head, in the form of reflections, surmises, imagined conversations. However, I found his somewhat terse, inconclusive conversations with Latimer very interesting. They may seem contrived at times, but I think conversations between two lonely yet wary people are bound to be carried on in that manner. I read somewhere that there are many Biblical allusions in the book. Other than the explicit quotes by Latimer, I missed the allusions given my ignorance of the Bible.
Gathering the Water is unlikely to appeal to readers who want an active pace, a sound plot, neatly tied ends and lively characters. Weightman and Latimer have their own charm though. And there are moments of humour. All of these are packaged into compact prose as well. That, in my opinion, is the best treat that this book has to offer.
Earlier post on Gathering the Water.