Set me as a seal on your heart, for love is stronger than death.
- The Submerged Cathedral by Charlotte Wood
As you can guess from the above quote, The Submerged Cathedral is a romantic novel. I don’t typically read or enjoy romances but I try to keep an open mind — especially since one of my favorite novels, Gone With The Wind, is a love story. I also gave The Submerged Cathedral a try because author Charlotte Wood has been highly praised in the Australian literary circle. I wish I could say my openness paid off but alas, I did not enjoy this novel at all.
Here’s the plot:
Two Australians in their twenties, Jocelyn and Martin, meet and fall in love. The early stages of their romance are sparsely chronicled; the narrator simply explains that the relationship is very special. Trouble enters in the form of Jocelyn’s older sister, Ellen, a bitter and complicated woman fleeing from her abusive husband. Ellen brings with her a baby in the womb, as well as her seven-year old daughter. Jocelyn, a dedicated sister and aunt, moves out of Martin’s home and back to her own family home so that she can take care of her niece and help Ellen with the pregnancy.
Unfortunately, Ellen’s constant bad mood strains Jocelyn and Martin’s relationship. When tragedy befalls them all later, the romance falls apart as each person tries to grapple with his/her individual guilt.
Many years go by. Martin can’t get Jocelyn off his mind. Jocelyn can’t get Martin off her mind. The reader gets more specific details of their romance in the form of flashback. Martin becomes a monk, Jocelyn moves across the world. Will these star-crossed lovers ever find their way back to one another?
I am not such a cynical person that I would categorically snub all love stories. I just think effective love stories are incredibly difficult to portray. I applaud Charlotte Wood for her efforts but otherwise wouldn’t recommend this book.