Beside the Sea, Paperback Book
4 out of 5 (17 ratings)


A single mother takes her two young sons on a trip to the seaside.

They stay in a hotel, drink hot chocolate and go to the funfair.

She wants to protect them from an uncomprehending and cold world.

She knows that it will be the last trip for her boys.

A haunting and thought-provoking story about how a mother's love for her children can be more dangerous than the dark world she is seeking to keep at bay. ------ Why Peirene chose to publish this book: 'This is the most impressive novel about the mother and child relationship I have read.

Veronique Olmi handles an aspect of motherhood we all too often deny.

She depicts a woman's fear of releasing her children into the world.

The simple first person narrative achieves an extraordinary level of poetry and inner truth.' Meike Ziervogel, Publisher


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Showing 1 - 5 of 17 reviews.

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Review by

There is a pervading sense of gloom throughout this book; Olmi is excellent at creating atmosphere. The characters were well-developed generally, although I think it may have benefitted from a greater exploration of the protagonist's background, and how she came to be in such a desperate situation. Without that background, I felt that although the ending was foreseeable, I still wasn't at all sure why it happened like that. This book is not a likable one, but it is a profoundly moving story and definitely worth a read.

Review by

The narrator of this story is a single mother, who suffers from both anxiety and depression. She loves her two young sons, but she can't always make herself get out of bed in time to pick them up from school, and the social workers just don't understand. In the first couple of pages of the book, it is obvious that she is taking them to the seaside - but not intending to bring them back. This is an incredible attempt to get inside the head of someone on the edge of desperation. We are given very little detail about the life which went before, which brought her to this stage. But there is heartbreaking detail about the trip itself: she'd imagined herself giving the boys a treat, but the hotel is filthy, it pours with rain, and the sea is a dismal brownish-grey: and worst of all, the coppers she has so carefully saved up are barely enough to buy a few snacks, and are sneered at in the shops and cafes.This is such a good imagining of a monologue from someone on the edge of desperation that it seems churlish to point out that there is very little light and shade. From the reader's point of view, it might have made a more interesting book if the narrator was trying to keep it together a bit more. But this is a novella, and as such it's focused on the evocation of a mood, and does it very well. I hope that more of Olmi's work will be translated into English soon.Sample sentence: <i>They all looked like they had somewhere to go, they seemed to know the way by heart. I set off at random, in my I-know-what-I'm-doing mode, the kids trusted me and that brought me luck because guess what we came to? You'd have thought it was expecting us! The sea, yes, the sea! Bang in the middle of town, now that's something. You're looking for a cafe and you find the ocean, that doesn't happen every day, it was quite a surprise. </i>Recommended for: someone who admires good writing and doesn't mind tough subject matter.

Review by

This is a rare treasure of a book.Written in the first person, it tells of a single Mother's journey to the seaside with her 2 young sons. However, this is no holiday treat and it is clear from the beginning that there will be a devastating end to the story.The writing is first class and no detail is spared and yet we are left not knowing how and why some things have happened to this young Mother. Veronique Olmi's understanding of children and how they think is wondeful and you feel every tear the youngest child sheds and the "little man" bravery of the nine year old. It leaves you wondering how things could get this far. Did no one "care" enough. The family is obviously under the care of social services,doctors, health visitors and a teacher who senses all is not well. These people are not the only ones to blame...ordinary citizens let them down in the short time we are with them and it makes you ashamed to be part of the human race.A must read form a very talented and insightful author.

Review by

This is a rare gem of a novel. It is a short and very quick read, but it packs a very powerful emotional punch. I devoured it in one sitting, but it isn't a book that you put down and move quickly on from. This story of a single mother taking her two young sons for a trip to the seaside isn't a happy holiday tale. From the start you learn that all is far from well, however as the sad little story unfolds there is something about the sparcity of prose and the general bleakness of it all which is so beautifully written, that makes it such a good read.Peirene Press who have published this book in English have paid a great deal of care and attention to the production of it, from the excellent translation to the fantastic design. This book deserved the best and the quality of the production matches the writing. I am so impressed with this aspect, that as well as seeking out any future novels that I hope Veronique Olmi writes, I will definitely look out for other books published by Peirene.

Review by

A mother takes her two young sons to the seaside, but the trip is not just to show them the sea for the first time and it's certainly not a holiday.This is an absorbing, well observed, if oppressive read. Right from the first few sentences, you are aware that all is not quite right and the miserable weather that pervades the book reflects a general sense of unease that we feel right from the start. To say that this is a very disturbing story is not to give away the plot. I could not enjoy reading it, but was nonetheless gripped, following the thoughts of a mother who loves her children, but can't stop herself from unravelling. The two little boys - big brother, aged 9, taking on the responsibility for his little brother with heartbreaking seriousness; little brother, too young to really understand what is going on - they are utterly convincing.One small note is that I should be interested to see this in the original French - the book is a monologue from the mother and her "accent" (in my English translation) does not seem very consistent, which irked me a little bit, although was easy enough to ignore once I had become immersed.All in all, I can't honestly say that I liked this - I certainly needed something cheerful lined up next - but I did think it was well written, with some wonderful characterisation.

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