‘High Tide’ by Inga Abele

My rating: 4 stars

Ieva is the main character in High Tide, but it’s only close to the end that she becomes fully fledged and relatable. Inga Abele wrote the book in more or less reverse chronological order, and, thus, Ieva’s present feelings and life decisions only make perfect sense near the end, when we finally have further knowledge about her past. In fact, uncovering Ieva’s personality is part of the appeal of this novel, which delves into how previous decisions can influence our outlook on life forever, although we can always try to do something to improve our situation.

At the beginning of the book, Ieva, a scriptwriter in her thirties, is taking one of her walks in a forest. The reader is presented with a vague life reminiscence, which doesn’t make much sense at first. Nevertheless, it’s wonderfully written and self-examining. She is in love again but rather wishes she wasn’t. Why is she so concerned about the possible consequences of falling in love? Her past is the answer to that question.

“She’s been overcome by a clean and pure love, and she’d like to reduce this fire to embers as soon as possible, so everything would once again be ruled by calm and the quiet crackle of coals deep in the ashes. This peaceful state is her favorite: cinders on the outside and a quiet movement in the depths, the hidden smoldering of the coals. She likes it, but it’s not possible to burn anything out faster than it’s meant to, life is fire, love is fire, and time is fire and warmth.”

This is a novel about Ieva’s life and the role of Andrejs and Aksels in it. She was mainly raised by her grandmother, who died after being fully dependent on her daughter’s care. The narration of this fact is taken as an opportunity to convey an interesting reflexion on how old people can again need almost the same level of care as babies. From there on, the story continues to go backwards. Each part is usually set in an earlier time period than the previous one, and they are told from various perspectives.

Ieva was once married to Andrejs. From his point of view in the third person, we become aware that he was in prison for some time, because he murdered Aksels in circumstances only disclosed later on. He and Ieva had a daughter shortly after starting their relationship. He has a new partner now, and his remarks both about her and Ieva are often sexist. If I managed to form an opinion about Andrejs early on, the same didn’t happen with Ieva and Aksels. It’s only when we know more about the past that that becomes possible. Reading others’ opinions on Ieva and knowing some current events from her life was not enough.

It’s only during the last third of the novel that the real connection between Ieva, Andrejs and Aksels becomes clear, and the reasons behind Ieva’s present opinions on love are fully understandable. The way in which the story is structured led me to false conjectures, seeing that we have to fill in the gaps before being given all information. As we are only told scraps of former events at first, the past of the characters ends up being surprising.

If the story had been written in chronological order, it would have been easier to grasp. However, it wouldn’t have been half as interesting. Even if at times the novel feels slightly disjointed, Inga Abele made a good decision about its structure, considering the nature of the events narrated.

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