To The Sea by Christine Dibley

To The Sea by Christine Dibley

‘On this planet, there are two worlds.  The world of the land and the world of the sea.’

Detective Inspector Tony Vincent is called to a beach house in an idyllic location in the south of Tasmania.  It’s summer, and seventeen-year-old Zöe Kennett has vanished.  She went snorkelling, family members tell DI Vincent and his team, and she’s disappeared.  A search is initiated: perhaps Zöe is alive, somewhere.  Family members tell the police she’s a very strong swimmer.

The more questions DI Vincent asks, the stranger the situation appears.  No one seems to have a clear recollection of when they last saw Zöe, and no one really seems to have a clear idea of who she was.  It’s a large family: surely someone knows something? DI Vincent finds that while most members of the family expect the worst, Zöe’s mother seems to think that one day she might return.

There’s a story here, with many fabulous elements, spanning continents and centuries.  It’s a story told through the novel by different storytellers each sharing the information they have, their understanding of the past.  It’s a story I like, but just can’t accept.  I try to keep fables separate from fact.  But while the fabulous elements of the story make me uncomfortable, it’s not my beliefs that matter.  In this novel, Ms Dibley provides a present day mystery underpinned by a fable which passes from one generation to the next but to only one person in each generation.

What concerns me most, in this story, isn’t the fable and its impact.  It’s fiction: I can suspend disbelief.  What concerns me is that non-one in the family seems to know Zöe very well.  DI Vincent finds that there was much more to Zöe’s life than any family member seemed to know.

And the ending?  I’m not entirely sure what I wanted, but I know I wanted something else, something more.  I liked this novel, but it’s left me vaguely dissatisfied.  I mostly enjoyed the fabulous elements, but have some difficulty with their connection to the present.  I loved the setting, found DI Vincent an interesting character, and was concerned by the family’s reaction to Zöe’s disappearance.

This is Ms Dibley’s debut novel.  I’ve added her name to my list of authors to watch.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith