Waiting for the Flood (2024 edition)
Grade : A

Alexis Hall’s 30,000 word novella, Waiting for the Flood, was originally published in 2015 (AAR’s earlier DIK review is here), and, like Glitterland, has now been reissued as part of his ongoing publishing deal with Sourcebooks Casablanca. This new edition, however, has been substantially expanded to include a second, brand new, 50,000 word novella – Chasing the Light – which will not be released separately, so if you want to read it, you’ll have to purchase the new version. But it’s worth it, I promise.

In Waiting for the Flood, we meet Edwin Tully, a conservator at the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

Twelve years ago, Edwin Tully came to Oxford and fell in love with a boy named Marius. He was brilliant. An artist. It was going to be forever.

Two years ago, it ended.

Now Edwin lives alone in the house they used to share. He tends to damaged books and faded memories, trying to a build a future from the fragments of the past.

Two years after Marius left, Edwin is still alone, still struggling to move forward with his life. It’s not so much that he’s still in love with Marius or that he can’t accept that they’re over – it’s that he doesn’t understand why Marius left; nobody cheated, there were no flaming rows, just the quiet “click of a closing door”, the utter non-event-ness of it continually nagging away at his already shaky sense of self-esteem and reminding him that perhaps he just wasn’t worth staying for.

There’s a major flood alert in effect throughout the area, which is what throws civil engineer Adam Dacre into Edwin’s path. Adam is working with the Environment Agency to help manage the crisis and try to keep the damage to a minimum, and he’s exactly the sort of man you’d want to have your back in a tight spot – kind, calm, dependable and confident. He’s clearly interested in Edwin, but Edwin is still so scared of being hurt that he is unable to see beyond his fears to realise that the future he’d always longed for is staring him in the face and that it’s up to him to reach out and take it

Waiting for the Flood is a gentle and deeply moving story about coming to terms with grief, that is both melancholy and hopeful at the same time. The relationship between Edwin and Adam is superbly and convincingly developed, even though it happens over such a short space of time, and Edwin’s elderly neighbour, Mrs. P is a delightful mixture of mischief and wisdom.

I’ve always enjoyed Alexis Hall’s skill as a wordsmith. Some of his books hit the spot for me and some don’t, but the quality of his writing is never in question, and Waiting for the Flood is surely one of his highest achievements on that score. The writing is astonishingly beautiful – lyrical, insightful, painful, funny, truthful – and the way he uses the descriptions of Edwin’s home to mirror Edwin’s emotions is masterful. I often say that I’m not a big fan of novellas, but this is a rare exception - it's something really special.

(Grade: A: Sensuality: Kisses)

Chasing the Light

Edwin’s ex, Marius Chankseliani, doesn’t appear in Waiting for the Flood, but has a strong presence in it nonetheless. Chasing the Light, which begins a few months or so after the events of Waiting for the Flood, brings him into sharper focus and reveals more about the complex, messed-up man who hurt Edwin so very deeply.

A mishap down by the river on Christmas Eve finds Marius alone, injured and unable to stand or walk. He doesn’t expect cursing loudly into the dark to be any use, but fortunately for him, help does arrive in the form of Leo, who lives on one of the narrowboats moored along the bank. He helps Marius aboard and proceeds to take care of him, wrapping Marius up in the kind of warm, tender care he normally hates – but which this time, he can’t bring himself to walk away from.

Although Marius is the cause of Edwin’s heartbreak, he doesn’t come across as a bad person in WftF, but rather as someone doesn’t know what he wants or needs in order to be happy - although when we finally meet him in person, there’s no denying he’s a bit of an arsehole. He’s extremely prickly, sarcastic and often mean, but it doesn’t take very long to see that he’s sad and lost and full of self-loathing, the hurtful words he so frequently spits out a mask to hide his vulnerable underbelly. He’s struggling to come to terms with something that is potentially life-altering and he pushes away anyone who tries to offer him the comfort he doesn’t feel he deserves and tells himself he doesn’t want.

Leo is a lovely man – thoughtful, kind, funny and comfortable in his own skin. He’s been through a lot but has finally found his place in life and his peace far away from the man he used to be, and his patience and understanding are exactly what Marius so desparately needs - although Marius would rather die than admit it. Once again, the relationship in the story develops quickly but it’s so well-crafted that it’s easy to believe that these two will find their way.

Both stories end in a very firm HFN, giving Edwin and Marius new starting points that offer the potential for future happiness. I liked the emphasis on love being nothing to do with worth; that everyone, no matter how messed up or how broken, deserves love, acceptance and to be seen by someone who gets them, and I also really appreciated the fact that Edwin and Marius finally get the opportunity to talk and achieve some closure.

(Grade: A; Sensuality: Warm)

Waiting for the Flood and Chasing the Light are perfect companion pieces featuring similar themes of heartbreak, loss, and recovery. The prose is beautiful and profound, the characters are endearing and their love stories are full of compassion and hope. Highly recommended.

Reviewed by Caz Owens
Grade : A

Sensuality: Varies

Review Date : February 26, 2024

Publication Date: 02/2024

Recent Comments …

Caz Owens

I’m a musician, teacher and mother of two gorgeous young women who are without doubt, my finest achievement :)I’ve gravitated away from my first love – historical romance – over the last few years and now read mostly m/m romances in a variety of sub-genres. I’ve found many fantastic new authors to enjoy courtesy of audiobooks - I probably listen to as many books as I read these days – mostly through glomming favourite narrators and following them into different genres.And when I find books I LOVE, I want to shout about them from the (metaphorical) rooftops to help other readers and listeners to discover them, too.
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