‘Sea State marks the arrival of a gifted and exciting new voice’ Jon McGregor, author of Reservoir 13
A candid examination of the life of North Sea oil riggers, and an explosive portrayal of masculinity, loneliness and female desire.
In her mid-30s and sprung out of a terrible relationship, Tabitha quit her job at a women’s magazine, left London and put her savings into a six-month lease on a flat in a dodgy neighbourhood in Aberdeen – she was going to make good on a long-deferred idea for a book about oil rigs and the men who work on them. Why oil rigs? “I wanted to see what men were like, with no women around.”
Sea State is, on the one hand, a portrait of an overlooked industry, and a fascinating subculture in its own right: ‘offshore’ is a way of life for generations of British workers, primarily working class men. Offshore is also a potent metaphor for a lot of things we might rather keep at bay – class, masculinity, the North-South divide, the transactional nature of desire, the terrible slipperiness of the ladder that could lead us towards (or away from) real security, just out of reach.
And Sea State is, too, the story of a journalist whose distance from her subject becomes perilously thin. In Aberdeen, when she’s not researching the book, Tabitha takes pills and dances with a forgotten kind of abandon – reliving her Merseyside youth, when the music was good and the boys were bad. Twenty years on, there is Caden: a married rig worker who spends three weeks on and three weeks off. Alone and increasingly precarious, she dives in deep. The relationship, reckless and explosive, lays them both bare.
'In these accounts of the offshore men who do our dirty work for us, Tabitha Lasley has struck black gold. These are powerful and moving stories of working lives in a dangerous and all-male environment, made all the more powerful by the way Lasley refuses to absent herself from the telling. The writing is carefully and unobtrusively polished, with hard edges and unflinching clarity, and a memorable turn of phrase. Sea State marks the arrival of a gifted and exciting new voice' Jon McGregor, author of Reservoir 13 'She has the skill, a Joan Didion kind of skill, of inflecting non-fiction material subjectively, a habit of assessing situations via her nervous system ... Sea State has all the presentness of fiction, as well as the exactitude of the non-fiction novel and the gleam of confession. She finds out more and more about the oil industry and about masculinity, while mourning one man. She is a woman looking at men looking at women dealing with men. You can feel you have travelled full circle by the end of the book, a journey that locks you into a world and makes you feel its weight' Andrew O'Hagan, author of Mayflies, LRB 'Piercing, brutally candid, addictive. Sea State is a memoir like no other: one of the best I've read about men and women, about social class and, above all, about female desire. If you were gripped by Lisa Taddeo's Three Women, this is for you' Rachel Cooke, author of Her Brilliant Career 'A breathtakingly bold, honest and original book, I didn't want it to end' Decca Aitkenhead, author of All at Sea 'Tabitha Lasley throws herself into a dangerous, liminal world and crawls back battered, chastened, bearing a haul glittering with insight. Brilliantly propulsive' Aida Edemariam, author of The Wife's Tale
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