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Waiting for the Flood by Alexis Hall
I recieved this book in exchange for an honest, unbiased review. Unbiased being the keyword. Now, I don’t know about everybody else who reviews things, and I, honestly, try not to promise very many reviews anymore, but. But. When I do, I am always unbiased. Sometimes books are good and sometimes they’re bad, and I can just pretty much guarantee that no matter what, I’ll let the book speak for itself.
I was a little worried about ‘Waiting for the Flood,’ though. First, I am a HUGE Alexis Hall fan. I’ve so far only managed to get my hands on a few of his books, but his writing just always bowls me over, in the very best way. I’ve had to ban myself from his blog. I’ll start reading an article or review of his, and suddenly I’ve gotten myself lost in his website and hours have gone by. I can’t even go on his Twitter feed anymore. So I thought, maybe, for the first time, I would be biased and love this book because I am just so crazy about the way he puts words and emotions to paper.
And I was just so very, very excited to have the book. I wanted to read it so badly.
I think I kind of psyched myself out, because for the first couple of pages, I just couldn’t get into it. Whenever you read a book with the knowledge that a review must follow, you spend a lot of time thinking about the context of the review and maybe not the book itself. Which is another form of dishonesty, I suppose, and why I only rarely request books to review.
But this is Alexis Hall. And yes, I have a weird, crazy obsession with him and sometimes I ogle his Twitter for longer than is probably healthy, and yes, there was the very real potential that that would taint my opinion of this book. But it didn’t. It didn’t have to. ‘Waiting for the Flood’ is simply so beautiful and wonderful and lovely that it stole my heart all by itself. If I had never heard of Alexis Hall or any of his other books before, I would still have been in love with this.
It’s so simple. Edwin is living in his house in England during a particularly nasty piece of weather. He’s basically waiting for the flood (oh my god, I did not just do that) to rise up over his doorstep. Meanwhile, some flood prevention people arrive and one, Adam, takes an interest in Edwin. And Edwin, who is awkward and lonely and still trying to come to terms with the idea that the man he thought he’d be with forever has left, doesn’t know how to react.
And that’s it. It is a bit of a romance, and it is about the flood, but for me, it was more, or mostly, about the end of Edwin’s relationship, and how that quiet death of a future changes everything. And, at the same time, changes very little. There’s no real drama. There are hardly any outbursts, except one, and even that was more heartbreaking than exciting, more an ache than a sharp pain. And yet, in this quiet way, with these characters who feel very real but are not, in and of themselves, spectacular or incredible, the book conveys so much emotion and so many ideas, ideas that I think usually get skipped over. In the hands of someone who wasn’t as talented and insightful as Alexis Hall, these things would probably be boring. But here they tunneled into my heart. They made me feel… so much. I didn’t necessarily feel for Edwin and Adam so much as I felt like they felt the same things as me. Does that make sense? Like I could understand them because they were real people with problems that seemed small, maybe, but, in their lives, were large. And real. And honest.
And maybe I am biased because I could feel those things a little too closely. When Edwin talks about how he’s using his fear of being hurt, of being left, to keep Adam away… that’s me. That’s what I do, what I’ve been doing for a long time. Wow, did I get what he meant. And there were others things that struck a little too close to home. And the amazing thing is… Sometimes you read a book about something that hits close to home, and you just know that the author doesn’t know what they’re talking about. That they’re using this pain or discomfort as a plot device. But not here. Never with Alexis Hall. I don’t know him, and I don’t know what’s happened to him in his life‐ maybe he’s just that talented that he can talk about things like he’s lived them‐ but it always feels like he’s been there, like he’s speaking for an honest place. Like I can trust what I’m reading, and believe in it.
So I enjoyed the characters, and the romance. And I loved the plot. Everything about it. I mean, the flood could easily have felt like heavy handed symbolism, but it didn’t. But what I liked best was the writing. I love the way Alexis Hall folds words together to express things, the way each word fits and feels so good. Like he says in the book‐ “…dropping the syllables cleanly, like marbles…” I love the way he takes simple things and turns them into something lovely and complex, and the way he takes complex ideas and makes them smaller and more comfortable, so that you feel all the things, the joy or the sadness or the loss, without getting bogged down. Like when Edwin says he wishes he could say that his ex‐boyfriend died instead of leaving, so that Edwin would seem “brave and slightly wounded, not just someone somebody else didn’t want.”
It’s a beautiful way to say it. And have you not ever wished that? I have. I’ve just never seen it in black and white, laid out in front of me like it’s perfectly understandable to feel that way.
And I love the way it’s all tempered by little moments of laughter. I always laugh right out loud when I read Alexis Hall, and that’s necessary, to balance the other emotions in the writing. I laughed so many times reading ‘Waiting for the Flood.’
And I love how blatantly intelligent this book is. Maybe it’s weird to say that, to say that it’s a rare quality, but I think it is. You can see how clever the book is in the way it throws emotions at you and just expects that you’ll have enough sentiment to catch them, and how smart it is in the way the writing allows you to pull more and more and deeper meaning from the words. But it’s overtly intelligent, too, when Edwin and Adam talk about their work, or when they have that long, rambling discussion on game theory (which I had to look up because, while I would consider myself rather intelligent, that one made no sense whatsoever to me.) In the middle of a beautiful story, there was intelligence that made me feel challenged. Alexis Hall believed his readers would be intelligent people, and that made me feel like I was reading something that was far more than fluff. It was really refreshing, actually.
Not that any of this felt like fluff, in any way. It was so gorgeous. I loved the easy comfort and discomfort. Loved the sentiment expressed here, loved the smooth ebb and flow of feelings. I wanted to read it forever, over and over. This was short. It should have taken me… maybe a couple hours to read. It took me almost five, because I kept going back and reading paragraphs over. Sometimes I realized I just hadn’t had enough and went back pages, rereading, reabsorbing, just trying to suck all that wonderful writing and characterization and setting and sadness and happiness and loss and loneliness in.
God, it was good.
And! I assumed this would never be available in print, but now it is! And this book is so wonderful‐ it’s worth buying in either (or, preferably, both) format. It’s lovely and touching and it left me feeling raw and kind of fragile.
I liked it very much. Very, very much. -SEL
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