Review: ‘Cove’ by Cynan Jones

This thin volume follows a man out in his kayak to scatter his father’s ashes, struck by lightning. Injured and lacking his memory, he tries to survive. While it is a very short book at 95 pages, there is nothing lost in the depth of the writing. This is fantastically written – everything is concentrated into the fewest words possible.


Reading this book seems to have reduced my usual forgiveness for the extraneous language in other books – the parts which don’t contribute anything. Not that most authors, at least ones who write as a craft as well as a way to tell a story, tend to do this. Yet I have been noticing how many paragraphs is dedicated to something Jones could communicate in a sentence – this has changed the way I read, ever so slightly, and I think it has made me a better critical reader, from this demonstration of really economical language. When I just want to relax that might be annoying, but right now my own tastes are shifting, and this kind of quality is what I want to read more of – brave writing, exciting and energetic prose.

A lot of this is accomplished because Jones trusts the reader to be engaged, to not need everything laid out or handed to them but to give the words and the work space and time to affect them. And it did – this work was palpable to read. It made me feel seasick and nervous – the intensity of the writing absolutely affected how  I reacted to it. Rather than reporting feelings to you, Jones’s writing aims to invoke them in you, and for me at least it was incredibly successful.

I was incredibly impressed by the accomplishment this book represents, as well as completely drawn into the uncertainty, fear and emotion of the narrative. It’s a perfect book to read in one sitting, and to take plenty of time over. As an experimental sort of fiction, I would say it is for a particular taste, but absolutely an illuminating read.


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