Mountains rise stark and desolate on both sides of the channel; already there does not look to be room for people. Above, the evening sky, a sleety gray, shifts to show a little patch of the lightest blue. Standing on deck next to her husband, Maud takes it for a good omen – the ship will not founder, they will not get seasick, they will survive the journey, their marriage more or less still intact.
Maud and Peter take a cruise to Antarctica. I did not know you could take a cruise to Antarctica! But then, I do not pay much attention to cruises at all. It is an interesting story to read. I think it tried a little too hard on the symbolism thing, and spent a lot of time harping on one not-so-new thing (a woman clings to a cold marriage; her husband flirts) but I liked it! I can not say it touched my heart or made me jump up and down or want to tell everyone to read it, but it was a good story.
Maud and Peter are older, married 40 years, and they do not seem very happy together but Maud still does not want to lose Peter! We do not know exactly how Peter feels since the third person narrator stays with Maud. We follow along on their cruise. Everything is loaded with significance, from the whales (whales! Why do so many stories have whales? Is it a Moby Dick thing, something left over from Freshman Lit, that whales are significant? Or a leftover 60s thing about ecology?) to the icebergs to the saloon. And the seals who are dangerous, and wallow in blood on the ice. And the story of the lady who almost got left behind because she hid when it was time to go – and Maude wonders why she would do that. And the “darkly handsome” French first officer! They both have something to do with him, Maud and Peter do. First, Maud notices him, in a sea of Norwegians! She does not flirt or anything even close. But she notices! Peter notices the “much younger” (it is the “much” that makes it significant) wife of a forgotten college classmate, and starts flirting with her. But Maud realizes the much-younger-wife is at the same time flirting with the French first officer across the room! Poor Peter. Then Peter gets lost that night, and Maud wakes up and he is just gone! She goes looking for him and ends up in the control room, where everyone ignores her because they are steering around an iceberg. Yes, this is very loaded with significance! Danger! Ice! Blood! Seals! Being ignored! Young women and French first officers! Steering through safely!
But the key is the last few paragraphs, where his “bantering tone” returns – meaning he is depressed or hiding something from her. She told us this earlier. I think he is not hiding it very well, but it does not matter because she is observant and knows about the much-younger-wife. And of course he can not complain that the much-younger wife preferred the darkly-handsome French first officer to him! At least not to his wife!
This is literary chick lit, I think. High-end, very literary chick-lit, about how a woman feels when she is married to a flirt for 40 years. In the Contributor Notes, the author says she took a cruise where some of the things in the story actually happened.