What did Fiction Ed Shirley think of “The House by the Loch”, the second novel by Newsnight presenter and BBC journalist Kirsty Wark?
Kirsty Wark is a Scottish journalist, and razor sharp presenter of BBC Two’s current affairs programme Newsnight. “The House by the Loch”, her second novel, is in many ways a gorgeous read.
It’s set in Dumfries and Galloway, one of Scotland’s most scenically beautiful regions. Wark writes lyrically and descriptively of its soft, stunning grandeur; she seems genuinely to know it well and to love it.
The story is dual period. The “past” story, set in 1950, introduces us to Walter. A young local man employed as an engineer on one of Scotland’s famed hydro schemes, he falls for the glamorous Jean. And he can’t believe his luck when she agrees to marry him, and join him in his family home on remote Loch Doon. But can she really settle?
In the “present” story, Walter has gifted a wooden holiday cabin on the shores of the loch to each of his two adult children, Patrick and Fiona, who now gather annually for a summer holiday with their spouses and children.
Like any family, there are tensions: her husband’s infidelity has driven Fiona to alcoholism . . . and then tragedy compounds things . . .
The potential here is immense. For all Wark’s undoubted skills as a writer, however, she struggles with her viewpoints.
Cast Of Characters
The modern story has a weighty cast of characters — five adults, three children — and we randomly hop into almost every one of their heads. We hear their thoughts and feel their emotions, sometimes in successive paragraphs. Wark has attracted praise for her exploration of the inner lives of her characters. But please, not all at once!
Whose story is it? Which character does she want us to invest in? Darned if I know. And that’s where she lost this reader.
It’s a deeply emotional story. But I couldn’t figure out who Wark wanted to engage my sympathies. So, 25% in (reading on Kindle) I’m afraid I gave up in frustration.
“The House by the Loch” by Kirsty Wark is released in hardback by Two Roads on June 13, 2019.