In a mere 40 pages Cynan Jones paints a man desperate to survive. He has been caught at sea in bad weather and has been hit by lightning. Injuries and all, he has to find a way to return to the coast. As the novel starts with the account of a failed search, the reader suspect things are not going to end all that well.
Jones paints a realistic image of a man stranded at sea in a kayak. He is wounded and confused, his memory fails him, he has no idea who he is and why he is at sea. Shards of recurring memories come to him more and more.
Jones describes what it takes to survive, he does not have the man pondering on his life. It is not the time nor the moment. Instead Jones given us an account of possessions, the burning of the sun, the cold of the night, the fishes, the dolphins, the increasingly strong wind, the pain of the injuries and an occasional memory of a father or a loved one. There is little action in The Cove, still Jones does manage to build up the tension. The coast appearing all of a sudden, finding a piece of tarp and constructing a make-shift sail, it given you reason to hope the man may survive.
The Cove could be called a short story, its clever use of time and shifting perspectives makes it a kind of mini-novel. All the elements of a full-grown novel are present and have been used. The Cove is nothing more or less than the struggle of a man, that is all you get. Jones has restricted himself to the bare essentials and wrote those down beautifully. One gets the image of a writer deleting more and more of what he has originally written down until the novel is what it is: the drive of one man to survive. Just the necessities, the bare facts. And they convince.