Submergence is an example of an emerging genre: postmodern literary airport fiction. Offering myriad pleasures in its prose, it is studded with references and takes a nonlinear, episodic approach to a story featuring glamorous James More, an English spy and descendant of Sir Thomas More, and Danielle “Danny” Flinders, of Martinique and Australia, a sexy oceanographer and biomathematician. They meet and fall in love at a small, charming European hotel just before Christmas. As the tale begins, More is a prisoner of jihadists in Somalia, while Flinders is on a scientific mission on the Greenland Sea, exploring deep-sea vents. As Ledgard, author of Giraffe (2006) and an Africa-based correspondent for the Economist, tacks between widely divergent experiences, delightful essayistic digressions erupt. At times the story becomes superfluous, an armature for rhapsodies about the ocean, the desert, ideology, and the meaning of life. Ledgard strikes all the octaves on the keyboard. The result is a novel that is at once silly in the James Bond mode, beautiful, and extraordinary. An ambitious work that will provoke strong reactions. -Michael Autrey
3.6 rating based on 1,563 ratings (all editions)
Author(s): Publisher: Coffee House Press
In a room with no windows on the coast of Africa, an Englishman, James More, is held captive by jihadist fighters. Posing as a water expert to report on al-Qaeda activity in the area, he now faces extreme privation, mock executions, and forced marches through the arid badlands of Somalia. Thousands of miles away on the Greenland Sea, Danielle Flinders, a biomathematician, half-French, half-Australian, prepares to dive in a submersible to the ocean floor. She is obsessed with the life that multiplies in the darkness of the lowest strata of water.
Both are drawn back to the previous Christmas, and to a French hotel on the Atlantic coast, where a chance encounter on the beach led to an intense and enduring romance. For James, his mind escapes to utopias both imagined and remembered. Danny is drawn back to beginnings: to mythical and scientific origins, and to her own. It is to each other and to the ocean that they most frequently return: magnetic and otherworldly, a comfort and a threat.
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