2017 Reviews · Australian · contemporary fiction · literary

Book Review: Storm and Grace by Kathryn Heyman

Title: Storm and Gracestorm-and-grace

Author: Kathryn Heyman

Published: February 1st 2017

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Pages: 360

Genres: Fiction, Literary

RRP: $29.99

Rating: 4 stars

Their love knows no limits – but the further you go, the more dangers there are. Love becomes obsession and lust becomes control. A riveting thriller in the tradition of Girl on the Train and Before I Go to Sleep.

… fear swam beneath her, baring its teeth, telling her lies …

World-famous freediver Storm Hisray hits Grace Cain like a bolt from the blue. Instantly smitten, she abandons her life in the city to follow him to his idyllic Pacific island. There he teaches Grace the ways of the deep, and she learns to sink to unimaginable depths on one single breath. As their world narrows to the two of them, she learns, too, the exquisite pleasures of her body – but also that Storm hides as many secrets as the sea.

As he pushes Grace further and further beyond her limits – both in and out of the water – her resistance grows, but so does Storm’s need to control her. With a secret of her own to protect, Grace starts to realise that she is in deeper and more dangerous water than she has ever imagined possible.

Brilliant, mesmerising, incendiary and haunting, Storm and Grace explores the dazzling thrill of the deep, and the terrors that lie in its shadows.

My review:

Competitive deep sea free diving is the central topic of Australian author Kathryn Heyman’s latest novel, Storm and Grace. As well as shining the spotlight on a fairly new and dangerous sport, it also weaves together an obsessive love story between Storm, the world’s deepest man and Grace, an ordinary young woman who as the novel progresses, achieves something extraordinary.

Storm Hisray is a free diver, earning him the title, the world’s deepest man. When he meets Grace Cain, the two are immediately drawn to one another. Their instant attraction goes one step further and develops into an unbreakable bond. Grace soon abandons her old life and travels to a remote Pacific island to be with Storm. Grace follows Storm as he trains to take on a record breaking deep sea dive in one single breath.  Storm’s love for deep sea diving is infectious and it isn’t long before he begins to teach Grace the art of the sport. As Grace transforms under Storm’s guidance, Storm’s obsession with Grace grows.  When another female free dive competitor dubbed ‘mermaid of the deep’ makes a splash on the diving scene, Storm pushes Grace to her very limits. Determined that Grace will defeat this new player, Storm’s training of Grace takes a brutal turn and Grace begins for fear for her life.

It was a riveting experience reading Storm and Grace. This literary thriller, written by accomplished Australian author Kathryn Heyman, submerged me in its unfolding story over a weekend. Underpinning the relationship that develops between Storm and Grace, is a subtle look at understated forms of violence that can bubble over so slightly in the background but still has the capacity to do damage. There is also a creative third voice contained in this novel that harks back to the sea and myths of long ago. This intriguing voice added an original touch to the novel. Storm and Grace is a book that swims along for the majority of the novel, until the last third, where I sat on the edge of my seat, as Grace prepared for and attempted a record breaking dive. These scenes were emotional, heart stopping and delivered an unexpected outcome.

A twist on the romantic fiction genre, Storm and Grace looks at a relationship that transitions from instant attraction, to love and deadly obsession. Heyman conveys the various stages of the relationship between Storm and Grace with depth.  Grace was a character I warmed to from the onset of this book. I felt in awe of her journey and the bravery she displays by quickly becoming a professional free diver was inspiring. I could see how it was possible to be swept up by the charismatic Storm. However, Storm was a figure I disliked from the very beginning of the book. He seemed arrogant and his fixation on winning, as well as getting what he wants in all forms of life grated on me. Although this character was completely unlikable to me, Heyman has formulated a realistic protagonist and who I could easily imagine in this line of sport. Storm is also a shady character, full of secrets, which are later exposed on the closing parts of the novel. Towards the close of the novel, I willed Grace to find the courage to survive and fight back. The ending definitely left an emotional stain on my mind.

In Storm and Grace, Heyman’s prose is nothing short of assured and poetic. There are some stunning passages contained in Storm and Grace that pays perfect homage to the idyllic island setting in which the bulk of the novel is set. For me, I relished the descriptions that provided the reader with a different glimpse of the ocean from the deep. It definitely takes on another worldly dimension, a dimension I have never had the pleasure to experience, as I have a fear of diving in any form. After reading this novel, I felt compelled to read more on a sport I have had no prior knowledge of before reading Storm and Grace. I stumbled upon a recent newspaper article on the author of Storm and Grace, Kathryn Heyman that explained she undertook two years of free diving herself. Storm and Grace is the culmination of her experiences, as well as her active imagination. Storm and Grace is a novel so rich in imagery and I can see how Heyman’s personal experiences diving have shaped her novel.

Storm and Grace is a book about desire, love, possession, obsession and passion.  It is an evocative piece of Australian fiction that immerses the reader in a cautionary tale of love and determination.

Storm and Grace by Kathryn Heyman was published in February 2017 by Allen & Unwin.

*I wish to thank Allen & Unwin for providing me with a ARC copy of this book for review.

 

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