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One in a while you read a book that just takes your breath away. Those are the best ones. They touch your heart, they engage your imagination, and cause you to feel along with the characters. Lucy Clarke’s A Single Breath is a book like that.
In this engaging and gorgeous novel, Clarke shares an expertly woven and intense story about one woman’s grief and the surprising discovery that follows. A Single Breath, set in a quaint fishing island off the coast of Tasmania, is a totally engaging read. It’s melancholy, heartbreaking and uplifting all at once (I like to call that ‘sadappy’.) The vivid descriptions of scenery and the ocean become part of the story as the delicately wrought storyline unravels thread by thread.
From the celebrated author of Swimming at Night, a powerful and moving saga of one woman’s struggle to overcome her husband’s death and uncover his dark, mysterious past.
Eva has only been married for eight months when her husband, Jackson, is swept to his death while fishing. Weighed down by confusion and sorrow, Eva decides to take leave of her midwifery practice in London and visit Jackson’s estranged family in Tasmania with the hope of grieving together.
Instead, she discovers that the man she loved so deeply is not the man she thought she knew. Jackson’s father and brother reveal a dark past, exposing the lies her marriage was built upon. As Eva struggles to come to terms with the depth of Jackson’s deception, she must also confront her growing attraction to Jackson’s brother, Saul, who offers her intimacy, passion, and answers to her most troubling questions.
Will Eva be able to move forward in life, or will she be caught up in a romance with Saul, haunted by her husband’s past? Threading together beautiful, wild settings and suspenseful twists, A Single Breath is a gripping tale of secrets, betrayal, and new beginnings.
I had the pleasure of interviewing the beautiful Lucy Clarke. She’s just as intriguing as her novels.
author Lucy Clarke (photo credit James Bowden)
I loved this book so much. The idea of not knowing your spouse as well as you thought is so intriguing. What was your inspiration for this story?
Thank you so much! The idea for A Single Breath came from two very separate threads. In 2011, I visited Tasmania for the first time and fell in love with its wild beauty and its remote shacks. Later on that year, I heard of a friend-of-a-friend who was leading a double life in order to hide a huge secret from their family. I was intrigued by the idea of the unknowability of those closest to us, and thought how devastating it would be to find out the truth only when that person had gone. These two threads began to weave together, stitching themselves into the beginning of a story.
Why did you decide to situate the novel in a fictitious location?
Wattleboon, where most of the novel is set, is inspired by the very real Bruny Island, which lies off the south-eastern coast of Tasmania. It’s a stunning place and I knew I wanted to set my novel there, but I chose to apply some artistic licence and reimagine the landscape to suit the fiction of A Single Breath.
The twist of loving who a person is, no matter who they physically are (no spoilers!) was an interesting theme. Do you think the story could have ended differently? Why did you choose the one you did?
It’s an interesting question. I wanted to explore the idea of whether we can ever truly know those closest to us. For me, the novel was always going to end in just one way. It was a challenging ending to write because I knew that the characters would need to make some very difficult choices. I drafted and redrafted the ending over the 18 months it took to write the novel, until I finally reached a conclusion that – to me at least – felt both right and satisfying.
Have you freedived? What do you love about it? We’d love to know more about this sport.
I learnt to scuba dive in Tasmania and had a fantastic time swimming alongside sea dragons, draughtboard sharks, and huge rays. I found the dive tanks and thick winter wetsuits very heavy and restrictive, so I was excited to try freediving instead (where you dive unaided – just on a single breath). However, it quickly became apparent that I have the lung capacity of an aging hamster, so my freediving career never really took off! Luckily my husband freedives and spearfishes, and is very patient when answering the barrage of questions I fire when he returns to shore.
Eva is a midwife. How does her job relate to the themes of rebirth and the power of water to heal? Was this conscious?
A friend of mine is a midwife and I’ve always been mesmerised by her stories. I wanted Eva to be a strong, grounded character because she deals with such a lot throughout the course of the novel that she needs these qualities to survive. It was only as I began writing the novel and researching more about freediving and waterbirth, that I began to link the elements together.
I think anyone who has experienced a great loss understands those feelings of being ‘frozen’. Do you think that most women would have the courage to do what Eva did? What would it take to just pick up and leave like that?
Eva decided to leave behind her life in England and travel to Tasmania to see if she could find a connection with her husband’s family to help her through her grief. I’m not sure that everyone would have the courageousness of spirit to do as she did, although I do think that in tough circumstances we often find reserves of strength within ourselves that we didn’t realise were there.
Lucy Clarke (photo credit James Bowden)
Favourite novel: After You’d Gone by Maggie O’Farrell
Favourite food: Chocolate
Top place to write: A beach hut
Winger or planner?: Planner
If you could live anywhere… I’d stay right where I am, on the south coast of England.
Hooked? Ready to ready Lucy Clarke’s Swimming at Night? Buy it from my new BNOL Store.
Recommend Factor: 8/10