It’s one of those books where to describe too much about it is to ruin it – a slim volume, taut, beautifully, thoughtfully written and controlled, The Cove has a man in/against the elements narrative, it’s a little Life of Pi if you like, a little Old Man And The Sea, even. It’s a novella of just less than 100 pages, written and arranged as if a long prose-poem almost. The Cove is minimal on plot and minimalist in its crafting, chiselled back from a bigger story – no doubt; Jones has already proved himself in this type of space – the small novel about big things – with The Dig.
Here we have an unnamed protagonist lost at sea, a modern-day Robinson Crusoe, he’s adrift – spiritually, literally. And the descriptions of his world and the view of all beyond his world are subtle, resonant, poetic, wise. Our man at sea discovers about himself a resourcefulness that is almost by fluke, the desperation of survival instinct kicking in as a frying pan become an oar. His cell-phone that won’t work becomes the symbol that what separates man from beast is technology; rendered here as a potentially flimsy concept.
Rich in the language, shrew in the assembly, seemingly light and easy but worth revisiting, re-reading, The Cove is a joy, one of those profound reads. It has a haunt all of its own despite the many seemingly obvious, overt references. I thought most often of it as some flipside to Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Maybe that’s a naff way to end a review, but it’s better than giving away the magic of this book.