The Salt Letters: A Novel ~ 2nd Copy ~ RING!

by Christine Balint | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: 0393321606 Global Overview for this book
Registered by AnglersRest of Teignmouth, Devon United Kingdom on 8/21/2005
Buy from one of these Booksellers: | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon DE | Amazon FR | Amazon IT |
7 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by AnglersRest from Teignmouth, Devon United Kingdom on Sunday, August 21, 2005

It is 1854, and with the certainty of land behind her, Sarah flees her home for the uncertainties of life in the new colony. In steerage, she joins the other unmarried women, where the horrors of their close confinement bring an unraveling of secrets no one can control

Editorial Reviews from

From Publishers Weekly
In her first novel, Australian writer Balint tells the haunting story of a young woman's 1854 ocean passage from England to "New Holland" in sensuous and fiercely precise prose reminiscent of poet-novelist Anne Michaels. Though detailed in its description of the horrible conditions on immigrant ships, the narrative is less a historical novel than a lyrical rumination on the suffusing, diffusing and enveloping power of both water and memory. Her movements aboard ship restricted by disapproving Matron,who oversees the locked and crowded steerage quarters for unmarried women, Sarah Garnett begins numerous letters to her mother in Shropshire, but never gets farther than the few tantalizingly constrained words that begin each chapter. As the stories of the odd assortment of characters onboard begin to unfold, however, so do Sarah's memories, revealing a family history rife with strange secrets and even stranger women. There's Grandmother Frye, a bold sea-captain's wife who smelled so strongly of fish that she "salted the air around her," and Sarah's own mother, who passed on to Sarah the blueprint of a shameful family "pattern" descending from one generation of women to the next. Elliptical references to Sarah's cousin Richard gradually reveal that he is part of that family weakness; perhaps he is on board ship, having run away with Sarah. This is left teasingly ambiguous, for, as the ship languishes in the stultifying doldrums, Sarah's reminiscences and desires become increasingly fluid and fevered, and the line between her hulled-in present and her past eventually becomes indistinct. While Balint succeeds in conveying a young woman's physical and emotional anguish, sometimes her use of the water metaphor becomes overwrought. Yet the narrative is compelling, and keenly observed details bring immediacy to Balint's imaginative recreation of a harrowing experience.

From Library Journal
In this first novel by Melbourne native Balint, two stories unfold simultaneously: narrator Sarah's journey from England to Down Under and her past life in Shropshire. Inspired by published emigrant diaries and letters, the author evokes the mental confinement of Victorian England's family life and arranged marriages and the physical confinement that Sarah suffers in the passenger ship's steerage. Historical details further conjure passion and aversion amid opposite physical and psychological extremes: tropical heat and Antarctic cold, light and dark, dryness and dampness, confinement and escape. Though rich in atmosphere, the story offers little else, and the writing at times seems indulgently self-conscious: "I seem to be able to eat a small portion of macaroni soup and jelly pudding. How strange to have a flavour other than sickness in my throat." To escape is the only decision Sarah makes, and other events are unrelated gestures.

Journal Entry 2 by AnglersRest from Teignmouth, Devon United Kingdom on Sunday, August 21, 2005
21st August 2005 - Opened this book as an International Book Ring.
To take part please send me a PM.

The order of the list is subject to change based on mailing preferences and geography

clarrie-rose ~ UK (postage within UK)
scotsbookie ~ UK (Overseas via Surface)
FabClaire ~ UK (ship anywhere)
lauraloo29 ~ Canada (Shipping Canada & US)
ldpaulson ~ USA (postage within USA)
L8bloomer ~ USA
wyldewomin ~ USA (shipping International)
AzurePurpleCat ~ Australia
peggysmum ~ Australia (inland or surface)

....And back to AnglersRest!

Book Ring Rules (Adapted from psychjo & Kleptokitty)
1) Everybody should leave a journal entry when receiving the book and after the read! Please let us all know what you think about it...
2) Also PM the next person on the list for a mailing address and when that person doesn't answer within 7 days MAX! please PM the one after...
3) Everybody should also try to read the book soon (max - approx one month)
4) You can send the book via surface mail or airmail - that is completely up to you.
5) If you find you don't have the time to read it when it's your turn please PM and I'll move you to a later slot.
6) Any new members joining from now will be added to the end of the Ring

Journal Entry 3 by AnglersRest from Teignmouth, Devon United Kingdom on Sunday, September 04, 2005
I made a blunder and ended up with two copies of this book.
As soon as I have read my copy I'll make a Journal entry

This 2nd copy will be in the post 5th September to clarrie-rose, who is at the start of the ring.


Journal Entry 4 by BC-08080413432 from London, Greater London United Kingdom on Friday, September 09, 2005
Received today - I'm looking forward to reading it. Thanks!

Journal Entry 5 by BC-08080413432 from London, Greater London United Kingdom on Friday, September 16, 2005
I enjoyed this. I thought the most impressive aspect of the book was the way it evoked very convincingly the shipboard atmosphere and the protagonist's voice. Having read quite a lot of emigrant letters from this period, I thought the author did a really good job of capturing the style of them and creating a believable character from that era. I liked the way Sarah was very restrained but still expressive. As the Library Journal says, not a lot actually happens, but then I suppose not a lot did happen on long voyages like this one. However, I did think the author could have developed the central secret of the book, which is really just hinted at and could have been made much more interesting. Also I was quite disappointed with the ending - it was rather abrupt and I found it difficult to understand what was actually going on. Definitely worth a read though.

On now to scotsbookie.

Journal Entry 6 by scotsbookie from Peebles, Scotland United Kingdom on Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Thanks clarrie-rose, the book arrived this morning.

Journal Entry 7 by scotsbookie from Peebles, Scotland United Kingdom on Sunday, October 16, 2005
A haunting & at times moving book. The sense of stagnancy & stillness as the boat is becalmed in the Doldrums is very well described. However I agree with clarrie-rose in that I thought the secret that was only hinted at could have been more developed & been more central to the story. I too was disappointed with the end, I felt the narrative just stopped & didn't come to a conclusion. Which is a shame as I felt the book still had somewhere to go.

Will PM FabClaire for her address.

Journal Entry 8 by FabClaire from Malvern, Worcestershire United Kingdom on Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Arrived safely this morning. Finished my last book last night, and was just deciding what to pick up next. Excellent timing :)

Journal Entry 9 by FabClaire from Malvern, Worcestershire United Kingdom on Wednesday, October 26, 2005
I really enjoyed this, and read it one sitting. I'd agree with other readers in that not much actually happens, but that doesn't really matter because so many other things are thought about and mentioned.

I loved the atmosphere, I see long voyages in a different light now. Also, I liked the ending - it seemed right, don't want to spoil it for anyone else so won't say any more. However, what was the 'secret'? I missed it. Can anyone explain? :o)

On with the ring...

Journal Entry 10 by FabClaire at Post Office in to a friend, a postal release -- Controlled Releases on Sunday, October 30, 2005

Released 13 yrs ago (10/29/2005 UTC) at Post Office in to a friend, a postal release -- Controlled Releases



Posted to lauraloo29

Argh... this shouldn't have been 'released' as such... Who let me out?

Sorry :o)

Journal Entry 11 by lauraloo29 from Edmonton, Alberta Canada on Monday, November 07, 2005
Arrived safely today. I now have a total of 6 rings! Yikes! :) Not to worry. I'll keep them moving.

Journal Entry 12 by lauraloo29 from Edmonton, Alberta Canada on Friday, November 25, 2005
I didn't enjoy this book. I see that I'm in the minority. I found the story line confusing. I wasn't always sure why we would read about past memories. They didn't always seem to connect with me. I thought Sarah's mother was very unbalanced. That's not a bad storyline thing, just disturbing. I too found the ending jarring. I had to go back and read the last few pages again. I thought I had missed something.

Not to worry. I'll be sending this book along to the next person on Monday or Tuesday. Thank you for sharing!

Journal Entry 13 by ldpaulson from Ventura, California USA on Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Arrived yesterday in the post from Canada!

Looking forward to reading this book, which is presently en queue with another bookring.

Journal Entry 14 by ldpaulson from Ventura, California USA on Tuesday, December 13, 2005
An interesting novel in which the narrative and back story are told in a series of journal-like entries, each of which starts with the first lines of a letter from a young woman to her mother. (What strikes me as odd is that she would even dare correspond with her mother, since her mother was the reason our narrator was leaving. Well, that and her mother's enforcement of cultural morals as well as her paranoia of all things wet or moist. But perhaps that is why the letters are never really finished.) Sarah, our narrator, goes freely back and forth in time to tell the story of her journey and her reasons for embarking upon it. She is leaving for New England -- Australia -- in a voyage that will take seemingly forever. This is 1854 after all.

Lots of plotlines are left dangling and the read is interesting, but not particularly satisfying in such a thin novel. Can't say more without spoiling the book for others. The incidents that happen along the way are factually based, according to the author's acknowledgements. It would have been nice to have had an account of what happens to the unmarried women when and if they arrived safely.

A good first novel, I should like to know what Christine Balint finds to write about next and hope that she would dare to write without relying on a tested literary framework.

Journal Entry 15 by L8bloomer from Winchester, Virginia USA on Thursday, March 16, 2006
Greetings!!! I received this book, but have been sitting on it - so sorry!!! I will read it asap and get it movin' on :-) Theresa

Journal Entry 16 by AnglersRest from Teignmouth, Devon United Kingdom on Friday, December 29, 2006
I am not sure that PMs are getting through. Please can I have a status update?

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