George Owens is ninety years old, and has had a lifelong love affair with water. A natural swimmer, from early childhood he has known that water was his natural element and striven to understand that mysterious third ingredient that brings hydrogen and oxygen molecules together to create water. Above all, he is drawn to the river Dyfrdwy – the Dee – whose winding course is paralleled in a vein in his arm. He knows instinctively that by birth he is the owner and guardian of the river, and even finds proof of this in a medieval Welsh law-book. To confirm his possession he decides to swim the river’s entire length, from rural Meirionnydd to the mouth of its estuary in the English town of Chester. Now nearing the end of his life, still swimming, and aware of his increasing detachment from his land-bound relatives and neighbours, George reflects on the impulse that makes him return constantly to the Dee, still emotionally closer to it than he ever was to his terrestrial wife, and still obsessed with that mysterious third element.
Like the river, George’s narrative follows its own course and pace, sometimes smooth, wandering and leisurely, sometimes rushing busily onwards with no time to meander. His voice and moods borrow the rhythms and accents of the land where his journey began, shifting from intense feeling to sly humour, from lyricism to affecting warmth. Sian Melangell Dafydd’s prize-winning first novel is extraordinary and enchanting.
'This book will have an impact on our literature in years to come.'