Seaward

[openbook booknumber=”0020421907″][rating:5/5]

His name is West. Her name is Cally. They speak different languages and come from different countries thousands of miles apart, but they do not know that. At a certain moment in their lives, catastrophe wrenches each of them out of reality and into a strange, perilous, astonishing world through which they must travel – together. Together they confront mystery and danger, knowing only that their journey must end at the sea. They learn to survive and to love – and, at the last, learn the real secret of their seaward traveling.

This is a book about growing up. Magical echoes of myth and legend are woven into a driving, dramatic narrative that seizes the reader and will not let go until the final page. Interweaving life and death, love and hate, courage and fear, Seaward is filled with the emotional depth and power and complexity that distinguish Susan Cooper’s widely acclaimed five-book sequence The Dark Is Rising; yet it takes the reader through a wholly different landscape, beyond the realities of everyday life, into an experience that will not soon be forgotten.

I was one of those rare children that came to Seaward before I came to The Dark is Rising. So, years later, when I did an internet search with a few vague keywords during the dark hours of a read-a-thon to try and re-find this childhood novel that I half remembered I was shocked (no, seriously, shocked) to discover that it was by none other than Susan Cooper. And then… I wasn’t shocked at all.


They had nothing to eat but Ryan’s food, and they ate little of that because it was so dry, but it seemed to sustain them. Their greatest worry was water. Though they drank only a little each day, Westerly’s flask was empty and the bottle in Cally’s pack now only half-full.
       “I wish I was a camel,” Cally said.
       Westerly said, “I wouldn’t want to spend this much time with a girl who looked like a camel.”
       She tried to laugh, but her tongue felt thick in her mouth, and her mind full of hopelessness. “When this is gone, we shall just die of thirst.”
       “We’ll be out of the dunes by then,” Westerly said encouragingly. But he knew that the mountains, though nearer now on the hazy horizon, were far more than a day’s walk away.

In a lot of ways Seaward is a short story version of all the things that made The Dark is Rising so incredibly awesome. The magic, the danger, the young people caught up and confused in a grown-ups plot, all combined to make this a tense journey as West and Cally attempt to make it to the sea and to find answers to why they are there in the first place.

The symbolism in this book is amazing. There is no way I got all of this the first time around. Everything from the many faces of death, to the constant rebirth of life, from the people of stone, to the selkie, to Snake all had many meanings and additional ramifications that were often just hinted at (since this IS just a YA novel). I have to admit Snake bothered me in this adult re-reading but after some thought I decided to think of him as an inner expression and not an outward standalone person. Before snakes were given such a bad rap in Genesis to deter other religions who glorified the animal, snakes and women were once considered in the same mysterious light. Snakes shed their skin, women bled, and yet they both kept on living, a predominant theme in this book, continued life against all odds.

With the overall message of life and hope amidst death and destruction, I found this book to be really uplifting and much more powerful the second time around. The symbolism was amazing and multi-layered, reaching out to all sorts of different audiences at different ages. Cally and West were an inspiring couple to read about and it was touching watching them discover the world, their journey and ultimately each other along the way. You root for them from page one, and their story is a roller-coaster of magic, excitement and mystery to the last page. I really recommend reading this forgotten Susan Cooper story, or re-reading if you read it once long ago, especially if you are a fan of The Dark is Rising. You won’t regret it.

2 Responses to Seaward

  1. Darren @ Bart's Bookshelf
    6:55 am on October 17th, 2010

    Ooh this one sounds good. Not heard of it before, but it is going on the wishlist!

  2. Cherry Mischievous
    1:31 am on October 23rd, 2010

    Like Darren, I haven’t heard of this book before too… but it looks like I need to look into it 🙂

    …thank you for sharing your views!

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