In Every Wave by Charles Quimper.
Translated by Guil Lefebvre

Earlier in the year, I read a fascinating review of “The Electric Baths” by Jean-Michel Fortier on Tony’s always interesting blog. After I commented on his post, the publisher of the book, QC Fiction, contacted me and kindly offered me a review copy. I was very keen to read the book, but when it turned up they’d actually also sent along another slim volume they publish – “In Every Wave” by Charles Quimper. To my eternal shame, it’s taken me until now to pick up one of the books, but for some reason the Quimper called recently – and what a remarkable novella it is. I say remarkable, but it’s also one of the most gut-wrenching and emotionally draining books I’ve ever read. It’s not gruesome or violent and horrific; yet if you’re a parent, I think that “In Every Wave” will tap into your worst nightmares.

The story is a first person narrative, told by a man who has lost his daughter while swimming one summer. This proposition in itself is heartbreaking enough; and as the book opens he has set sail in a boat in search of his lost child in the hope of being reunited with her. As he narrates his journey in the small craft, he looks back on the events of that fateful day. Tormented by the most unbearable guilt, he gradually reveals how his relationship with his wife Marie suffered after the accident; and as their relationship dies, his own sanity seems threatened… His daughter of course is not findable in this world; whether he will find her elsewhere is another matter.

“In Every Wave” is first and foremost a brilliant piece of writing, as Quimper portrays vividly a man on the edge; that moment of inattention which led to tragedy is played out over and over again, although each time the story changes a little so the reader is never quite sure what actually happened by the water that day. The narrator is haunted by the sound of water in his house; he sees that liquid as his way back to his lost child and the more he thinks along these lines, the less rational he seems. In the end, it’s unclear what is the truth and what imagined in his narrative; all that remains is his pain.

I am a dying star, a fading supernova, but there is strength yet in my hands and somewhere in my chest. If I search long enough I’ll find you. It’s inevitable.

I described the book in my opening paragraph in quite dramatic terms, and that’s because I write as someone who was an anxious parent of all three Offspring. I lived in terror of that moment when you took your eyes off your child for a single moment and the unthinkable happened. That this is the premise of “In Every Wave” really hit a nerve, and I found the book terrifying and moving in equal amounts. The way Quimper conveys the narrator’s despair is utterly convincing, and I felt emotionally exhausted after reading the story. It was 78 pages of pure emotion for me, and I applaud his achievement while having to take a bit of time out to recover from the story.

As far as I can tell, this is Quimper’s first and only fiction, and it’s a remarkable achievement. Reading his portrayal of a father consumed by grief is quite shattering; and it will resonate with anyone who’s ever been an anxious parent. I hadn’t intended to read this book from QC first, as it was “Electric Baths” I’d expressed interest in. But I’m so grateful to Peter McCambridge for sending this over; it’s a devastating and stunning read, and spot on in its depiction of the intensity of parental love. Quite unforgettable.


Other lovely bloggers have written eloquently about the book and you can find their thoughts here:


Winstonsdad’s Blog

Tony’s Reading List

ANZ Litlovers