Four years after the death of her unborn child, forty-year-old Elizabeth is divorced from her husband and intensely protective of her independent status. When a friend prevails upon her to go on a blind-date-of-sorts with an American architect, Elizabeth is initially very reluctant but allows herself to be persuaded. The American architect is Robert, an attractive, wealthy, confident and seemingly charming man who is twelve years Elizabeth's senior, and his exuberance and generosity soon begin to win her over. Before long, Robert has declared his love, bombarded her with gifts, gently coerced her into behaving less independently and convinced Elizabeth that they have a future together. However, although separated from his wife, Robert still enjoys an unusually close relationship with her and he has an almost grown son whom he won't allow Elizabeth to meet. And Elizabeth, who is still longing for a child, is unsure whether Robert is committed enough to their relationship and whether he genuinely wants to embark on a whole new life with her and to have a child of their own. In fact it doesn't take Elizabeth (and, indeed, the reader) too long to come to the realization that Robert is not quite what he seems on the surface, and that despite his apparent charm, he is actually a selfish and controlling individual.
Narrated by Elizabeth, who tells the reader right from the outset that the relationship does not last, 'Slack-Tide' is a beautifully described and involving tale of the ebb and flow of a love affair, and as we know from the beginning that the affair finishes after six months, the reader's interest is focused on learning why and how the relationship falters and ends. Elanor Dymott presents her psychologically acute story in the form of monthly-chaptered vignettes which open with excerpts taken from Piloting and Seamanship manuals (and the like) and although, at 195 pages, this is not a long book (and as the book is narrated from Elizabeth's perspective, we don't have the opportunity to learn more about Robert's past and about his thought processes) it is a very interesting, intense and beautifully described one - it's also rather funny in places too. There is a lot more that I would like to discuss about this story (for instance, why Robert behaved the way he did - was he just looking for a close relationship with someone after the break-up of his marriage, and could that someone have been almost anyone?), however to do so might spoil the story for those who have yet to read it, and having enjoyed this book so much, I should hate to do that. I have read and enjoyed Ms Dymott's previous two books ('Every Contact Leaves a Trace' and 'Silver and Salt') and can honestly say that I recommend all three.