Annie Stanley is taking time out; she has given up her teaching job, split up with her boyfriend and is spending a lot of time on her sofa. When her father dies suddenly she is, as the title suggests, ‘all at sea’. When she finds out that her father’s partner, Bev, plans to scatter his ashes somewhere that has no significance for her or her sister, Kate, she acts on impulse and steals the urn. She embarks on what becomes a road trip around the coast visiting all the areas mentioned in the shipping forecast. Despite living in landlocked St Albans, her father had been an avid listener to what he called ‘the soundtrack to our lives’ and ‘the poetry of our Isles’ and had even named the cat, Cromarty.
Annie is grieving and needs to find a way to say goodbye that means something to her, which I can totally relate to. What starts as an ill-thought-out impulse, becomes a plan to visit all the coastal areas mentioned in the shipping forecast. As she travels from Cromarty to Forth, Tyne, Dogger and beyond, Annie re-evaluates her life, past and present, and gradually makes peace with herself, and comes to appreciate that, even if just for a short while, Bev was an important part of her father’s life.
The characters are well drawn and believable, a road-trip theme always appeals to me, and each chapter is aptly prefaced with a phrase from the shipping forecast. I had to look up the shipping forecast online to find out where some of the areas were and discovered some beautifully illustrated maps which are well worth a look. I really enjoyed this book, it made me laugh despite the sadness and grief, and look forward to reading whatever Sue Teddern writes next. Thanks to Pan Macmillan, Mantle and NetGalley for a digital copy to review.