Psychological Realism Books

‘Blue Tide Rising’ by Clare Stevens: Blue and beyond

I planned it. I invited it. I was an equal partner. And nothing ever happened till I was seventeen,” broods Amy Blue in Blue Tide Rising. Amy, all of 24, washes up in a grungy neighbourhood of Manchester where “people fetch up like flotsam”. Amy gets through life with a heavy supply of Diazepam that keeps her from breaking out into a scream any moment.

The novel opens on a dismal Balmoral Street and proceeds to sketch out Amy’s past and her journey towards redemption. Orphanhood, abandonment, grooming, abuse, rape, depression... Amy goes through it all, but Blue Tide Rising is no pity party. It even has a crime thriller thread woven into it later on which makes up the larger part of the book.

Finding closure

When Jay — beautiful, pale, tall — visits Amy in her dingy ‘studio’, she doesn’t know who he is. Assuming he is a random guy sent by social services to help her, and with her brain still muddled by drugs and

‘Blue Tide Rising’ by Clare Stevens: Blue and beyond

traumatic memories, Amy recounts her life to Jay. She listens to him when he advises her to get out and talk to new people and explore new places, and eventually escapes to a Welsh farm near the sea, Môr Tawel, to find herself.

Once in Môr Tawel, she not only gets a grip on herself but also ‘discovers’ Jay, along with a host of new faces. Amy sees people from her strife-ridden life walk back to her at Môr Tawel, if not physically, at least as a renewed memory, helping her find closure.

The nuances of Western lifestyle are by now familiar to readers of English fiction. These days, our cities too sport gleaming cafés and themed pubs. We are aware of depression and anxiety as conditions requiring medical help and do our best not to stigmatise these illnesses.

But stepping into Amy Blue’s shoes and walking her path did entail some struggle for me as an Indian reader. For one, an average Indian woman would not have it this easy.

Blue Tide Rising is all about second chances. Amy’s gut-wrenching experiences, most of which have their roots in her gender, do not yet make her a ‘gone case’ even though she gets judged by friends and family for falling in love with an older man.

They are not ready to see it as ‘grooming’, where an abuser draws in a victim little by little, over the years, until she is completely trapped, vulnerable and clueless. But even under such circumstances, Amy manages to find a way out of her small town, that too without even a college degree.

After each of the debacles, Amy is able to pull herself together at the earliest — something a majority of girls in India in Amy’s situation would not be able to do. She finds employment. She finds rooms to stay. She gets treatment. She gets social support. Yes, she ends up on Balmoral Street, but even there, she has her sessions with her psychiatrist. There is some kind of social accountability.

Out there

When Amy eventually finds people whom she can call her own at Môr Tawel, she is welcomed warmly irrespective of her past. They do not look at her with disdain for having had her body violated by scheming older men.

In a culture where staying ‘pure’ is still regarded as a woman’s ultimate virtue, in a system that prefers silence and secrecy to truth and justice; amidst a mindset that does not mind crushing a woman’s dreams if it feeds male entitlement, it feels novel to imagine that lives like Amy’s are getting redeemed somewhere out there. That voices like hers are being heard. That experiences like hers are being counted. Even if it is set in another land. Even if it is all fiction.

One is reminded that Blue Tide Rising is a work of fiction more strongly towards the end, which is too saccharine to be realistic. That remains a disappointment, but this journey with Amy Blue is worthwhile.

Blue Tide Rising; Clare Stevens, Inspired Quill, £9.99

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Printable version | Sep 23, 2021 8:35:10 AM |

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