Verdict: Unsettling, beautifully written, wonderfully vague.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Published by Hamish Hamilton, May 24th 2018
Genre: Literary Fiction
Imagine a world very close to our own: where women are not safe in their bodies, where desperate measures are required to raise a daughter. This is the story of Grace, Lia and Sky, kept apart from the world for their own good and taught the terrible things that every woman must learn about love. And it is the story of the men who come to find them – three strangers washed up by the sea, their gazes hungry and insistent, trailing desire and destruction in their wake.
Hypnotic and compulsive, The Water Cure is a fever dream, a blazing vision of suffering, sisterhood and transformation.
It is so very difficult to describe this book, which is I think one of the reasons why the blurb is so vague. This is the story of three sisters, growing up on an island with their parents where something is obviously not quite right but many things remain vague for the whole book. It is never clear whether the stories their parents tell them of the rest of the world are true or not. I personally adored this vagueness and the hypnotic and introspective way this story unfolds.
Sophie Mackintosh’s prose is lush and evocative; her sentences are breathtakingly beautiful and she spins her metaphors in such a brilliant way. Imagery of water is threaded through the whole book, changing meaning and implication depending on the narrator and the context. I adored that.
The author plays with voices and perspectives in a way that I obviously loved. I am a big fan of stories told, at least in parts, in a “we-“perspective and Mackintosh wields that difficult voice expertly. She switches perspectives in just the right moments and allows her narrators to be unreliable without loosing authenticity.
At the heart, this is a story about sisters (nobody is surprised that I love that) and their disfunctional relationship. The way in which flashbacks into their childhoods were integrated is brilliant and effortless and left me always wanting more while being able to fill in some blanks myself – I love it when authors trust me enough to do just that. I found the parts that examined their love and the way their parents broke them to be by far the strongest, whereas the storyline with the men washed ashore did not always work for me.
I thought that the pacing in the middle dragged a little, but the beginning and the ending were pitch-perfect. I cannot wait to see what Sophie Mackintosh does next, because I will definitely reading it.
First sentence: “First we have a father, but our father dies without us noticing.”
I received an arc of this book courtesy of NetGalley and Hamish Hamilton in exchange for an honest review.