My Kyrosmagica Review of The Boat by Clara Salaman


Goodreads Synopsis:

When a boat appears out of a raging storm, Johnny and his new bride Clem don’t think twice about stepping on board to take refuge, especially as it is crewed by a bohemian couple who represent everything they want to be. But all is not what it seems. And when they finally open their eyes to the truth, the boat is in the middle of the vast open sea…

This is a hypnotic, emotionally charged novel about two sweet young lovers who lose their innocence in paradise, and is based on the author’s real life experience.

About the Author:

Clara Salaman is a novelist, screenwriter and actress. She is best known for her role as DS Clare Stanton in The Bill, for which she was nominated for Best Actress at the National Television Awards.

She was born in North London and raised in a cult.

My winning copy

I won a copy of The Boat by Clara Salaman from fellow Blogger and Book Reviewer Jenny Marston:


The Book’s blurb

The blurb on the back of the book didn’t quite do it justice: ‘This is a hypnotic, emotionally charged novel about two sweet young lovers who lose their innocence in paradise.” Ok, the hint was there in the ”lose their innocence in paradise,” but this just didn’t play out how I expected, it was far more raw, and gut-wrenchingly shocking, than I expected. So, be prepared, this novel tackles some very disturbing issues, and is most probably not for everyone.

What did I think?

Well at times my stomach twisted in a rather unpleasant way, particularly in the parts of the novel when it became apparent that the bohemian boat captain, and his wife were into some very deviant sexual tendencies. I was glad that Clara Salaman didn’t go into too much detail especially with regard to Frank and Annie’s young daughter Smudge. This would most certainly have turned me off the novel if she had.

This novel is even more shocking if you consider that it is based on the author’s true life. One doesn’t know exactly which parts of the novel are based on fact, but the knowledge that there is some truth in it makes the novel even more valid for me.

I appreciated the undercurrent of uncertainty that ran throughout the novel, right up until the final most disturbing revelations. It was a clever idea to set the story on a boat. The boat is named the “Little Utopia.”  This seems like a contradiction in itself, utopia is thought of as an idyll, a delightful place rather than somewhere you find yourself unable to escape from. It’s a fantastic word combination of utopia suggesting the idyll, with little suggesting the claustrophobic aspect of the boat. In The Boat captivity is not enforced by human hand but largely by elemental forces, the wind died and the boat wasn’t going anywhere fast. When Johnny and Clem first see the boat’s name written on the transom they think it is “a heavenly place full of warmth and light and music.”  In fact it is an interesting twist that Clem eventually finds her relationship with Johnny stifling, she yearns for the freedom that Frank and Annie represent, yet Frank and Annie are not what she expects, and in this she is naïve and somewhat childlike herself. Clem is prone to superstitious tendencies, and the owners of the boat don’t follow these precautions. This lack of respect for superstition acts as a warning that all will not bode well on this tiny, idyllic boat.

Of the two main protagonists: Johnny and Clem, I preferred Johnny, somehow I related to him more. At times I found Clem somewhat frustrating,  and a little contradictory, I wanted to prod her and say,” What the heck!” But, this is most probably because she is the more naïve, and damaged of the two, due to her own father’s neglect, and makes the worst decisions because of this.

The majority of the narrative is set on board  the boat, although there are some chapters interspersed within this “boat narrative,” that focus on Clem and Johnny individually to suggest aspects of their background and motivation for their actions. On the whole this worked quite well but I did sometimes feel as if these could be edited, and shortened a bit, for me the most successful chapters were those spent with Frank, Annie, and Smudge.

There is a birthday celebration for Smudge, and Johnny gives Smudge a hand-made spear. “I found a monster, Johnny!” she said.

So did I.

“Did you kill it with your spear?” he asked.

“No. I let it go.” Her eyelashes had matted together like a doll’s eyes; she looked so perfect and fragile. “Be the monster, Johnny. Be it!”

Of course Johnny pretends to be the monster but the real monster is lurking on board the boat, and as the story unfolds we are kept guessing until we find out who that person is.

The birthday celebration which should be a happy event acts as a pivotal point in the narrative, things begin to change. Annie does something so dreadful that Johnny feels he has to hide it from Smudge.

So a shocking read, not one for the faint-hearted. It is very well written, even though there are some typos which could have done with proof-reading.

Recommended for readers of Drama, Fiction, Mystery, Thriller, who like a thought-provoking book with a strong theme.

My rating:

4 stars.


Favourite quotes:

“Occasionally, when Johnny witnessed how her beauty could disarm people, he thought of it as a sort of weapon. Frank looked as if Clem had just pulled a gun on him – there was the briefest flash of pure helplessness in his eyes. ”

This, here, now is magic. He got it then, the power of uncertainly, true freedom, and it felt just like love to him. He was drunk, but that was irrelevant.”

“Frank laughed. ‘It turned out Annie had told them that I’d killed her mother, cut her up into pieces and put her in the freezer.”

“Johnny and Clem laughed too, taking their cue from him but their laughter was just a release. It wasn’t funny. It was fucked up.”

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