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We Were the Salt of the Sea Reader Reviews

We Were the Salt of the Sea

Lynn Johnson

The sea is calling and draws us in.

This book is a crime story, a mystery, a love story written in a literary but accessible style. There is a body, a daughter looking for her birth mother and a man who is doubting the continuation of his thirty year marriage. Their stories are interlaced with the lives of others living in a small community on the Gaspe Peninsula, Quebec. And finally, there is the sea—captured with beautiful prose, waves gently breaking, sometimes crashing, which Bouchard captures perfectly as she draws the reader in to become part of the Canadian landscape.

The novel is written from the perspectives of several Point Of View characters which is difficult to follow at first and, in my view, slows down the earlier chapters as we are introduced to them. They do become clearer as the novel progresses and the story evolves. 

This novel will resonate with anyone who has lived in a small, tightly knit community where secrets are difficult to maintain and where outsiders will always remain on the periphery. Everyone in the village is acquainted with Marie Garant and yet nobody knows her.

This is the first of Bouchard’s five novels to be translated into English and I hope more will follow.

Linde Merrick

Lyric ode to the sea wrapped up in a dark crime novel of a woman's search for her birth mother and the mysterious death of another.

This elegiac novel follows the time spent by its Montreal heroine Catherine in the remote fishing village of Caplan on Quebec’s outlying Gaspe Peninsula.  She is not only searching for her birth mother after the death of the couple who were her legal guardians, but also trying to find real meaning for her life.  At the same time, the Detective Sergeant, Joaquin Morales, also newly arrived from Montreal, has to try to resolve the mystery of the death of the woman dredged up in the nets of one of the local fishermen.

Roxanne Bouchard’s interweaving of these two strands results in a complex story, with a full cast of  intriguing characters.  The truth about the life of the dead beauty, Marie Garant, and her interactions with many of the members of the Gaspe community proves intricate, difficult to disentangle and ultimately elusive.  Bouchard’s skilful writing has not only produced a dark, page-turning crime novel but also an evocative elegy to the power of the sea and its effect on many who live and work within its reach.  The satisfactory ending gives Catherine not only a close understanding of her mother but also sets her free to cast off the moorings of her old life and follow her dreams, sailing away on the outgoing tide.

Karen Kingston

A novel which stirs many emotions, turns many pages and leaves you wishing the author hadn't concluded it so early.

Despite being an avid reader, the only books I had previously read set in Canada were crime novels by Kathy Reichs featuring Dr Brennan, so I was keen to read this.

Thankfully I wasn't disappointed by this novel. The style of writing was different to any other book I've read, but I really enjoyed it.

The story flows well as we meet Catherine Day, the fishermen and other residents of the Gaspe Peninsula, including the newly arrived Detective Sergeant Joaquin Morales. 

I found myself eagerly turning the pages as the author slowly fed more little snippets about the main characters, whilst making the sea appear simultaneously beautiful and dangerous.

Despite Catherine being the main character from the start of the novel, the person I felt I knew the most by the end of the novel was DS Morales. Catherine remained as enigmatic as her mother had.

I found myself disappointed towards the end of the novel, not by the conclusion of the story, but because the story came to an end before I was prepared to leave the fishing village and the characters that had been brought to life.

Wendy Smith

Sorry but not recommended. I did not find the style easy to read or get into repeating phrases were distracting and stopped the flow. Disappointed.

I am sorry to say that I found this a very difficult book to get into. I started it several times. In the end, I gave up. I did not find the style easy to read or get into, repeating phrases were distracting and stopped the flow, especially the phrase of 'Christ in a Chalice' - if it was meant to annoy it certainly did that. I do not know if there has been some of the original meaning lost in translation but it seems to be the case.

I would therefore not recommend this book.

Tracey Thomas

Christ in a chalice a beautiful written book that will to make you fall in love with the sea.

So let’s start with some honesty, if I was in a book shop the cover would absolutely draw me in it’s beautiful, then I would have read the back and probably have put it back down. A Big mistake on my part.

I loved this beautifully written book, that you wish would not end.

Not a gritty thriller for the crime genre but often more tranquil and lyrical.

Wonderful characters that you wish to know more of and especially the area that you wish to visit. Not an action packed book, but still moves at a pace.

An excellent and flawless translation. 

Would I read this author again Christ in a chalice I would.

Pauline Braisher

Even if this book is one you would not normally read, I would recommend that you try it. It really is a lovely book.

This is one of the few books I have ever considered re-reading straightaway: partly because it was so enjoyable and partly because I wanted to revisit the characters, to try to get to know them properly. There are lots of layers to this story and even at the end, there is a mystery still to be solved. The story is set in a fishing village in Canada, the sort of village where people have long memories and hold deep grudges. It’s up to the two main protagonists - a young woman dealing with bereavement and disappointment and a disillusioned detective whose marriage is in trouble - to try to get to the truth. The story is told through their eyes and it’s their joint stories which lead us to the truth, although even at the end of the book,one of them still has a question to be answered.

 Even if this book is one you would not normally read, I would recommend that you try it. You will soon be drawn in and once drawn in, you will not want to put the book down until it is finished.

Rachel Aygin

I really loved this book. Please hurry up and translate the rest of Roxanne Bouchard’s novels into English so that I can read them.

This is the story of Catherine.  After the death of her adoptive parents, Catherine travels to the Gaspé in search of her birth mother, who she has never met.  She finds an old fashioned fishing village peopled with eccentric characters.  As Catherine spends time getting to know the village and the locals a woman’s body is found in the sea.

This book reads like a patchwork quilt and each little snippet is interesting as we begin to piece together a picture of the past and present and to wonder who Catherine’s mysterious father is.

I really loved this book.  I’m having withdrawal symptoms now I’ve finished it.  

Nicola Kingswell

Part voyage of discovery, part murder-mystery and part love story to the sea.

Catherine Garant arrives in the Gaspe Peninsula determined to find her roots and the identity of her mother and father. Before she gets very far, the body of a woman is caught up in the fishermen’s nets. It is the body of Marie Garant, seasoned sailor, local beauty and Catherine’s mother. Joaquim Morales, Inspector newly transferred from Montreal to Gaspe, is put in charge of the investigation  before he even has chance to move into his new home. Morales is also on a mission of self-discovery, starring middle age in the face and questioning his marriage of 30 years. Catherine is determined to discover her purpose and Morales is determined to discover the truth behind Marie Garant’s death.

This is a quirky novel that feels as though it is trying to be quite literary in its prose and use of the sea as another character throughout. There wasn’t much description of the landscape which would have been interesting. The residents of Gaspe are a mixed bunch of old and new fishermen, wives and associates. Unfortunately, none of them come across as very pleasant and I didn’t really warm to any of the characters and found myself not really caring about any of them by the end. The whodunnit element felt like a little add on to the story and was wrapped up quickly. Maybe something got lost in translation but it seemed to miss the mark on its identity; murder-mystery, love story, voyage of discovery or literary novel. I’m not sure.

Annie Day

A haunting Canadian tale of love, nostalgia, disappointment and mystery.

This is an evocative tale of remote village life in Canada. 

Roxanne Bouchard sets the scene with a bereaved woman, Catherine, who travels to the Gaspe peninsula in search of her birth mother.  However tragedy strikes not long after she arrives when her mother, an accomplished sailor, unexpectedly dies at sea. The story interweaves Catherine’s soul searching as she deals with yet another bereavement with the mystery around the death of her mother, Marie. 

Catherine's gradual discovery and understanding of her mother’s complicated, elusive nature is touching and well written. However I felt that the unravelling of the mysterious death was less well told, and that the character of Detective Morales, an outsider going through mid-life marital problems, was somewhat cliched. 

 The gentle, poetic style of the language is beautiful, although I wondered if the translation from French could have been improved in one or two places. 

We Were The Salt Of The Sea is a haunting, unusual story that will appeal to readers who like offbeat, slow-paced thrillers set in interesting locations.

Jackie Robinson

The sea permeates every aspect of this story, forming the characters, their loves and lives. As the complexities unroll, what was impenetrable to an outsider begins to take hold of them as well.

By the end of the second page I was hooked. 

Thoroughly believable characters be they present, absent, earnest or comic and every other facet in between. A book where a part of you would like to be there with them as they work through the story.

The sea permeates every aspect. Not just the setting but the characters and their lives. It forms who they are, how they live, their loves and motivations.

And as the complexities unroll, what was impenetrable to an outsider begins to take hold of them as well.

A beautifully written tale set to the rhythms of the sea.

Lynne Packer

It’s a beautifully written book that isn’t just about the story but about the people, the place they live and their love for the sea.

This book was like meeting someone for the first time, your not sure if you’re going to get along but the more time you spend together the more you realise that actually they’re going to be really special in your life and you won’t want them to leave.

Jane Brown

Mystical crime novel, a tight knit community, daughter looking for her mother, and a body drenched up in the fishing nets.

Wow this book had such a mystical feel -but this is crime fiction and it certainly packs a punch it was atmospheric and that transferred to the authors very unique style of writing which worked so well. 

Catherine Day finds herself in a remote fishing village in search of her mother - it appears the villagers do not like her mother. A female body is pulled from the water in a fisherman net who she recognises. Thus begins an investigation led by Detective Sergeant Joaquin Morales having recently moved to the area. 

The author carefully introduces the main characters which has a bearing as the story cleverly unfolds. Then the pace quickens and the reader is taken into this close knit fishing village and the problems of solving the death of the female.

The reader will be taken on a journey of questions, love and loss. You can close your eyes and feel the sea.

Recommended and will be up in the top ten very quickly a must read for 2018.


One of the best books I’ve read this year so far!!!!

Really enjoyed this book. I thought it was beautifully written.  From the very beginning I was drawn into the story and wanted to keep reading till the end.  I finished reading the book in 3 days but could have easily read it one sitting if I didn’t have other commitments that needed my attention.

I believe this book is a must read for anyone who is looking for a crime/mystery.  One of the best books I’ve read this year so far.

Will be looking out for more books by this author.

Alison Bisping

An interesting read. It took me quite a while to get into it, but I persevered and I am glad I did - I ended up wanting to stay up to finish it.

Every man seems to love one woman who goes off to see for long periods - they all wait her return. But then she turns up dead. Is it a natural death, or has a crime been committed? 

Lots of different strands - crime, love, passion and the descriptions of the fishing boats, the sea, the cafe, the community - you can imagine yourself being there.

Really well written, annoyed me at times with the style, but glad I have read it.  

Mary Gibson

We Were the Salt of the Sea is an illuminating and enthralling crime thriller that is also a love letter to the sea. This novel will captivate the reader.

We Were the Salt of the Sea by Roxanne Bouchard is a novel of many complex elements. On one level it is a crime mystery, a young woman visits a remote French Canadian fishing village to find her biological mother whilst a newly arrived policeman investigates the death of a woman in the sea. This is a crime thriller, a romance, a study of small town isolated characters but above all it is a love letter to the sea, illuminating in its writing that will captivate and linger in the mind of the reader.

Book Information

ISBN: 9781912374038
Publication date: 30th March 2018
Author: Roxanne Bouchard
Publisher: Orenda Books
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 272 pages
Genres: Books of the Month, Reader Reviewed Books, Crime / Mystery, Translated Fiction,
Categories: Crime & mystery,