Turn The Tides Gently by Matt Wingett

Reviewed by Mark Caney

This is an intriguing story set in present day Portsmouth centred around the main character, Dave. He is one of society's misfits who is resident in a special hostel under some form of care in the community arrangement. He is under the supervision of a well meaning doctor who believes him to be psychologically disturbed. This is because Dave has visions, and when he is unwise enough to admit them to the doctor, he is medicated until these are subdued.

To Dave, though, the visions are real enough and as the reader, we must assume they are. Dave will wander through the streets of contemporary Portsmouth and see glimpses of scenes from its past: vignettes of Victorian life, snatches of Tudor times, they come and go in his mind and seem real enough to him. The detail in these scenes make them seem authentic and the descriptions of Dave's experiences are convincing. What is also convincing is the description of his treatment, his sensations while under the medications his doctor prescribes and how they affect Dave's grasp on the dual realities he experiences.

Eventually, while beside the sea, Dave has an encounter with a strange woman - a mermaid in fact - and this is different from his other visions because she sees him and eventually communicates with him. It seems that Dave is not only glimpsing other times, but may even be able to pass into them *** spoiler alert begin *** (an ability he shares with cats it turns out) *** spoiler alert end ***.

We eventually find that there are connections between Dave, his drowned brother, and the old Victorian house that is now the hostel where he is treated in the present day. As a result, many of the characters and details suddenly make sense.

Turn The Tides Gently is a short book, more of a novella really at only 78 pages, and there are limits to how complete and detailed a world a writer can create in such a space, but overall it is a complete and engaging story. In the epub version I reviewed there was also a bonus addition: the opening chapters of another of the author's stories.

As well as being an engaging story, Turn The Tides Gently will give you a feeling for the obvious affection that Matt Wingett holds for Portsmouth and would make you want to visit the area to try to find some of the settings described in this book.

8/10 A complete and engaging story.

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