Hello hello and welcome or welcome back to my little bookish corner of the internet. Today I’m bringing you a review of one of my favourite reads in September, The Last True Poets of the Sea. This is a book that took me by surprise in the best of ways, and I’m just as surprised I’m not seeing it being recommended more commonly, as I absolutely loved it.
Trigger Warnings: talk of attempted suicide, mental health
The Larkin family isn’t just lucky — they persevere. At least that’s what Violet and her younger brother, Sam, were always told. When the Lyric sank off the coast of Maine, their great-great-great-grandmother didn’t drown like the rest of the passengers. No, Fidelia swam to shore, fell in love, and founded Lyric, Maine, the town Violet and Sam returned to every summer.
But wrecks seem to run in the family. Tall, funny, musical Violet can’t stop partying with the wrong people. And, one beautiful summer day, brilliant, sensitive Sam attempts to take his own life.
Shipped back to Lyric while Sam is in treatment, Violet is haunted by her family’s missing piece — the lost shipwreck she and Sam dreamed of discovering when they were children. Desperate to make amends, Violet embarks on a wildly ambitious mission: locate the Lyric, lying hidden in a watery grave for over a century.
She finds a fellow wreck hunter in Liv Stone, an amateur local historian whose sparkling intelligence and guarded gray eyes make Violet ache in an exhilarating new way. Whether or not they find the Lyric, the journey Violet takes — and the bridges she builds along the way — may be the start of something like survival.
Like I said, this book took me completely by surprise. On one of the most important points, it has some of the most poignant and accurate mental health representation I’ve ever seen in a novel, to the point it made me cry on more than one ocassion. It’s a book of stunning beauty. I picked this book from the Audible Plus catalogue because I enjoyed the voice of the narrator and wanted a relaxing read. While the narration certainly was relaxing, the story itself managed to be more intense than I anticipated, but in a positive way.
Violet has watched her brother Sam struggle with his mental health for years, and has slowly watched him waste away, physically and emotionally, until it reaches a point where he makes an attempt on his life. She doesn’t know how to process his sadness, but as the story progresses, we also see how she doesn’t know how to process her own. She feels guilty, she feels responsible, she feels like everything could have been different if it wasn’t for her. And rather than having vocalized any of these feelings, she’s behaved in a self destructive way.
It was these pages that made me cry first. I’ve been honest and open about my own mental health here many times, but nothing has come as close to hitting the nail on the head for how I used to feel – how I sometimes still feel – before this book. It was beautiful, painful, heart wrenching, and lovely, all jumbled into one.
As Violet gets to know her new friends, and finds herself falling in love despite all her best intentions, she starts to see that maybe – just maybe – she isn’t a complete write off just yet. Maybe there is hope for her. Maybe she can tell her brother she loves him and she’s sorry and all the other things. Maybe therapy wouldn’t be the worst thing. Maybe they can find the Lyric.
The perfect love song to the sea, to sisterhood, and to self discovery, this book is one I’ll be recommending for a long time to come.
Thanks for joining me for this particularly emotional review. If you or someone you care about is facing up to the realities of living with mental health, I do recommend this book to help you understand others or yourself. I also wish you all the best wishes in the world; remember, you’re not alone.