Book Review: The Shipwrecked House

Sunday 20 October 2013 by

The Shipwrecked House, Claire Trévien, Book, ReviewThe Shipwrecked House by Claire Trévien

Published by Penned in the Margins

62 pages

Anchors, shipwrecks, whales and islands abound in this first collection by Anglo-Breton poet Claire Trévien.

Trévien’s is a surreal vision, steeped in myth and music, in which everything is alive and – like the sea itself – constantly shifting form. Fishermen become owls; one woman turns into a snake, another gives birth to a tree; a glow-worm might be a wasp or ‘a toy on standby’.

Struck through with brilliant and sometimes sinister imagery, The Shipwrecked House is a unique and hallucinatory debut.


I first heard about The Shipwrecked House when it was nominated as the people’s choice for the Guardian First Book Award 2013. When I wrote about it on my old blog, I was very kindly approached by the author herself (what a fascinating person she is! You need to follow her on Twitter) and offered a copy.

It took me a while to get to read it, because I was still heaving my way reluctantly through Something Happened, and so rather guiltily picked it up many weeks later. And what a joy it’s been!

Trévien’s surrealism is haunting – it’s beautiful and sometimes terrifying and often humorous. You can hear the waves crashing through the pages, feel the pebbles underfoot, and smell the salt of seaweed. The sea runs through the book like a well-loved friend, even when behind closed doors.

It’s been years since I read poetry and I’d forgotten how great it feels. Sure, there are some poems that I don’t like; but that’s the case when you read anything, and the joy of poetry is you have a whole book to pick and choose from.

One of my absolute favourites from The Shipwrecked House is ‘The Shipwrecked House II’. It’s a dreamlike notion of absence, and it lingers with you long after you’ve read it. Another is ‘Bread Cthulhu’, which was inspired by the #GBBO tweets (a girl after my own heart) and ‘The Cornish Owlman’ which is positively musical.

This is a certainly a case of small-and-might syndrome – a thin sliver of a book at a mere 62 pages. You can read it in a day, or take your time over it and turn each poem over and over. I recommend the latter. This book will sit on my bedside table for the next few months, so I can randomly pick over the poems whenever I choose.

5 Houses

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