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Reader Reviewed
Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume

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Winner of the 2016 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize.

Longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize 2016.

Slow starting first-person monologue that builds into a hypnotic tale which becomes utterly compulsive. It is a novel of companionship, loss and fear. Our narrator, a frightened, dysfunctional, 57-year old man, talks to an equally dysfunctional rescue dog who has a tendency to viciously attack other dogs. Half way through the book our frightened narrator, who has always hid in his home, becomes too frightened to even stay there and the two set off round Ireland’s tiny villages, sleeping in his clapped out old car in gateways and such. Lots of detail, lots of nature observations and lots of early memories make this an interestingly different and poignant read. Stay with it, it will grab you. ~ Sarah Broadhurst

Costa Judges' comment: “A tough but tender, brilliant read full of fresh wonder. One to cherish.”

One of our Books of the Year 2015.

November 2015 Debut of the Month.

Shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award 2015.

Click here to read an article by Sara Baume on how she came to write this book.

If you like Sara Baume you might also like to read books by Olivia Laing, Brian Kimberling and Donal Ryan.

Reader Reviews

In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title. You can click here to read the full reviews.

  • Sarah Mustafa - 'Sara Baume’s debut novel Spill, Simmer, Falter, Wither is an absorbing read.  Set over four seasons, it is a poignant tale of a man's relationship with his dog.'
  • Olivia D'Silva - A portrait of an isolated existence, heart-achingly poignant.'
  • Rachel Aygin - 'The writing is so richly descriptive that the story is woven like a tapestry.   Definitely an antidote to the fast pace of modern life.  An unusual read by a skilled writer.'
  • Sophia Ufton - 'Wow this was a brilliant story. I really enjoyed reading this book.'
  • Vanessa Wild - 'Beautifully and eloquently written, thought provoking but a little too dreary and melancholy.'
  • Sharon Wood - 'Lovely descriptive writing strongly evocative of the unspoilt Irish countryside and perfectly describing the four seasons of the year during which this story was set.'
  • Katy Noyes - 'A slow but beautiful to read debut that frustrated me with its pace. One for those who like character pieces and slow-burn styles.'
  • Katie Hoare - 'Spill Simmer Falter Wither is a beautifully written book...'
  • Siobhan McDowell - 'This author in her first book has portrayed two outsiders in a traumatic situation and shone a light right into their souls...an absoluter corker of a read!'
  • Sue Broom - 'Much to admire in her writing, but overall too bleak a story for my taste.'


Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume

You find me on a Tuesday, on my Tuesday trip to town. A note sellotaped to the inside of the jumble-shop window: Compassionate & Tolerant Owner. A Person Without Other Pets & Without Children Under Four. A misfit man finds a misfit dog. Ray, aged fifty-seven, 'too old for starting over, too young for giving up', and One Eye, a vicious little bugger, smaller than expected, a good ratter. Both are accustomed to being alone, unloved, outcast - but they quickly find in each other a strange companionship of sorts. As spring turns to summer, their relationship grows and intensifies, until a savage act forces them to abandon the precarious life they'd established, and take to the road. Spill Simmer Falter Wither is a wholly different kind of love story: a devastating portrait of loneliness, loss and friendship, and of the scars that are more than skin-deep. Written with tremendous empathy and insight, in lyrical language that surprises and delights, this is an extraordinary and heartbreaking debut by a major new talent.

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'This book is a stunning and wonderful achievement by a writer touched by greatness. It is the most powerful debut novel I have read in several years ... An outstanding new Irish novelist.' -- Joseph O'Connor

'Extraordinary ... Spill Simmer Falter Wither is a heartbreaking read, and heralds Baume as a major new talent.' Independent on Sunday

'A fascinating portrait of the friendship a man develops with his dog and the companionship he also finds in books...Fear curdles through this story, which skilfully builds suspense as it discloses their painful pasts...The lyrical language is most alive when evoking landscape...Baume [has] a gift for inventive use of language...Baume succeeds is reawakening her reader's capacity for wonder...so much so that the book and its one-eyed dog became companions I was loathe to leave.' Observer

'Unbearably poignant and beautifully told.' -- Eimear McBride

'Ambitious and impressive ... Baume's engaging, intriguing and brightly original first novel may mark a comparably significant debut.' Times Literary Supplement

About the Author

Sara Baume

Sara Baume was born in Lancashire and grew up in Co. Cork. She studied fine art and creative writing and her short fiction has been published in journals such as The Stinging Fly magazine and the Dublin Review. She won the 2014 Davy Byrnes Short Story Award and the 2015 Hennessy New Irish Writing Award. She now lives in Cork with her two dogs.

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Book Info

Publication date

8th October 2015


Sara Baume

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Windmill Books an imprint of Cornerstone


288 pages


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