The Handmaid S Tale Meets The Virgin Suicides In This Dystopic Feminist Revenge Fantasy About Three Sisters On An Isolated Island, Raised To Fear MenKing Has Tenderly Staked Out A Territory For His Wife And Three Daughters He Has Lain The Barbed Wire He Has Anchored The Buoys In The Water He Has Marked Out A Clear Message Do Not Enter Or Viewed From Another Angle Not Safe To Leave Here Women Are Protected From The Chaos And Violence Of Men On The Mainland The Cult Like Rituals And Therapies They Endure Fortify Them From The Spreading Toxicity Of A Degrading WorldBut When Their Father, The Only Man They Ve Ever Seen, Disappears, The Sisters Retreat Further Inward Until The Day Two Men And A Boy Wash Ashore Over The Span Of One Blistering Hot Week, A Psychological Cat And Mouse Game Plays Out Sexual Tensions And Sibling Rivalries Flare As The Sisters Confront The Amorphous Threat The Strangers Represent Can They Survive This Invasion And Will The Male Intruders A Haunting, Riveting Debut About The Capacity For Violence And The Potency Of Female Desire, The Water Cure Both Devastates And Astonishes As It Reflects Our Own World Back At Us Of course you can slap the label feminist dystopia on a book in order to sell copies, alas, it doesn t make the book a feminist dystopia Mackintosh s writing is languid and evocative, but there is nothing below the surface no one will drown in the depths of this story In the novel, we meet three sisters, Lia, Grace and Sky, who live in almost complete isolation at a remote beach with their mother who is reduced to her role and consequently referred to only as mother Their father, not so subtly named King, recently left to get some supplies, but hasn t returned He was the one who decided to take the family away from civilization, claiming he wants to protect the women from male violence and the toxic outside world it remains unclear whether some environmental catastrophe has occurred or whether the meaning is purely metaphorical, hinting at toxic values or the toxic system of patriarchy Whatever might be the case, King s rule clearly is a patriarchy as well, and a particularly vicious one To toughen the kids and under the guise of teaching them survival techniques, both mother and King have severely abused the sisters, both physically and mentally Their disturbance becomes obvious to the reader as the book is told from the sisters perspectives The narrative also tells us that there used to be female visitors who sought shelter from male violence, insinuating that we are dealing with a kind of cult At the time the narrative sets in, none of these women are still there though the reaons for this remaining unclear When mother and the sisters are visited by three men, wellthings happen, don t even ask there s also King Lear somewhere in there but whatever So let me get this straight King is not saving women, he is torturing his female kids with the help of a woman their mother, who is described as particularly sadistic As a consequence, the sisters have numerous mental health issues, to put it mildly The fact that you can hardly tell them apart by their respective narrative voices doesn t help either these characters are nothing but dolls, carved out by their manipulative father On top of that, the women who visit the family fled from their tormentors to give up their agency again, subjugating themselves to dangerous and, let s face it, idiotic, pseudo religious cures, because they are fragile and weak and also morons who long for someone who tells them what to do torture or be tortured, is this the feminist message here Or that women are always looking for a savior Or that all women are victims of men, because all men try to manipulate them, even their fathers This brings us directly to the next issue I have with this book The total number of men you can take seriously in this text is zero, and when I read sentences like t here were men who naturally caused great harm It was built into them , I want to scream because the stupidity of it is so obvious Granted, one of the nutty sisters says it, but when you sell this as feminism, you have to be held to that standard Do you know why misogynists are so morally despicable Because they don t have to oppress women, there is no biological determinism at work, they decide to act like that If they had no choice, if the monolithic entity of all men existed, you couldn t even blame them Sigh I would be way less upset if they didn t force a non existent feminist angle upon this surreal tale, I guess This book is all about its cold and detached language, an unsettling atmosphere and lofty allusions the problem is that in the end, the story alludes to nothing This water is very, very shallow, and if I was Jeffrey Eugenides, I d be pretty upset that the marketing team has the audacity to compare this mess to The Virgin Suicides Whoever has the chance to read the latter instead of this do it. This book.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 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. All the monsters in this book are women. We would all still love each other, but what it meant was if there was a burning fire, if two sisters were stuck in the inferno and they were screaming a name, the only right thing would be to pick the one the iron dictated to save It is important to ignore any contrary instinct of your traitor heart We were quite used to that Had this been a fairytale, it would have started like this There once was a couple who had three daughters and they lived on an isolated island King was the father s name and Grace, Lia and Sky were taught that he was their only protection from creatures that wanted to harm them The creatures were called men and he was a man but it didn t matter He alone knew what was good for the family Because the girls were weak, fragile, easy to fall ill from the sickness carried by the outside world However, women were welcomed to the island Women who were frightened and wounded Women who should accept rebirth through fear and water But they weren t there when the master of the house died They weren t there when three men were washed ashore They weren t there when the daughters had to choose But this is not a fairytale This is a story of isolation, exploitation, intentional fear and violence And what about the Mother, one may ask A mother is not a mother when she oppresses her children and obeys a madman obsessively, violently, in a household where iron determines who is to be loved most When she doesn t protect her children from paranoia, when she blatantly, maliciously threatens them, the mother becomes a worse danger than all the men in the world She becomes a monster Terror doesn t come from women or men It comes from therapies initiated by disturbed people who exploit the ordeal of women to serve their Messiah complex and their heinous inclinations Terror comes from ignorance when a young girl falls for the handsome stranger.Mackintosh plays well with stereotypes and the themes of uncertainty and a vague external threat The extracts from the Welcome Book of one of the guests of the island, a woman who has suffered abuse, talk of an invisible threat coming from a man Who is he The answer will be found at the end of the book She is haunted by his presence, abused by his shadow Who are the other women who refuse to support her And then, two men and a young boy are washed ashore, their intentions suspicious from the start In these pages, you will find an array of some of the most hate worthy characters you ll ever meet I wanted to murder half of the cast and I suppose this is a token of the writer s powerful writing I collect a long fingertip of dust from the lip of a vase, a solitary object on the mantelpiece in the hall It is empty except for a wasp dying in its own sound, vibrating dully against the porcelain Suffer, I mouth at it Mackintosh s prose is like a suffocating summer afternoon that carries the anticipation of an almost metaphysical terror Lies, deceit, delusion create a claustrophobic environment At times, the writing is so raw and violent that even I started feeling extremely uncomfortable and this doesn t happen often The violence between the two older sisters touches the boundaries of madness, a result of their abnormal upbringing This is the only way for me to explain Lia s hysterics that bothered me quite a lot throughout the story I suppose this is an example of the animal instincts we all carry inside, intensified by isolation and lack of education Another issue I faced was the dialogue which came in contrast with the exquisite prose Especially the interactions between Lia and Llew were so bad it was an actual physical torture for me to read Thankfully, dialogue is limited in the novel and I wasn t tempted to subtract a star because of it.No, this isn t mind blowing Literature We have read similar books and will come out in the future But it is a marvelous novel, beautiful in its bleakness and desperation, the prose exquisite and mysterious like a sultry summer evening, the last chapters are ferocious and devastating, worthy of 5 stars alone It balances Dystopian Fiction elements although the novel has nothing to do with the genre and it is wrong to be marketed like that and a very realistic, in depth study of the harm we can do to ourselves and to others.Even if it is a candidate for the most insufferable cast of characters, The Water Cure shows that monsters can be found in both sexes Women and men can become oppressive, dangerous, destructive There are no saviours but ourselves in these troubled times Trusting in our strength, aided by education and companionship, are the ways to distance ourselves from populists and tyrants Building fortresses against imaginary threats that possibly serve twisted purposes only leads to destruction and we have two World Wars and countless hostilities to prove this One day they will overwhelm us, water molding our carpets and warping the parquet, leaving tidemarks on the wallpapers But I hope to be long gone by then My reviews can also be found on I m a bit tired of publicists and or reviewers telling me that a certain book is the 21st century s version of The Handmaid s Tale, and also of the fact that feminist dystopian novels are so hip and hyped at the moment I read quite a few of them, some good, like Red Clocks by Leni Zumas, The Power by Naomi Alderman and The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood but often not, like by Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich, The End We Start From by Megan Hunter, Genesis Girl by Jennifer Bardsley, The Last One by Alexandra Oliva and Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed And you cant help but wonder whether publishers just didn t want to miss the hype But I had quite high hopes for this one, mainly because of some very favorable reviews by people I admire But sadly, the book was quite a disappointment.First of all the premise family life on a remote island, far away from the polluted and dangerous mainland, and only the Father travels to the mainland from time to time for supplies was in many respects a rehash of the premise in Gather the Daughters which came out in July 2017 So, not very inventive And it didn t help that I thought Gather the Daughters was quite bad The main weak point for me was the story, which was too predictable to be interesting especially after the arrival of the two men but also the part in which the truth about Father and Mother is revealed almost every plot development or twist you could see coming from a mile away, which at least for me, doesnt make for an engaging read And although I liked that Mackintosh left things unexplained, there were quite some parts that didnt make sense to me at all especially the rationale behind the various exercises and treatments And what was the deal with the salt Mackintosh tried to raise interesting points about family dynamics and gender but in the end, the execution didn t convince me.1.5 Sudden love, when gifted to a habitually unloved person, can induce nausea It can become a thing you would claw and debase yourself for It is necessary to wean yourself onto it, small portions. Sophie Mackintosh s debut novel, The Water Cure, is the story of three sisters living an occult existence on an island off the mainland one fateful summer when they have their first experience with men other than their father Yep, that pretty much sums this one up Grace, Lia and Sky have been raised on an island away from civilization for their entire lives view spoiler For the entire novel, I pictured them as being two teenagers and an elementary aged girl Imagine my surprise when, near the end of the novel, we find out that the two eldest are around 30 years old and the youngest is around 18 hide spoiler Absorbing the guilt and the sorrow is something the world expects of women.Haunting and thought provoking.This story focuses on 3 sisters Grace, Lia and Sky who live with their mother and their father, King, in a very isolated place They are told that they are kept apart from others for their own good.There were other women living there with them before, but they no longer live there now Now it is just their small family who stick to their own rituals and cures to prevent the daughters from themselves, toxicity, the fearful outside world, and men One day King leaves and is feared to never come back to the Island Soon two men and one boy are washed by the sea onto the shore bringing desire and destruction to this family s routinely schedules This book was very introspective, with thoughts focusing on the point of views from the two eldest daughters Lia and Grace While not much action happens through out the book, we are witness to how the girls believe they are getting sick and the punishments and treatments they give themselves to avoid this toxicity.The cures, rituals, punishments and treatments are all learned from their parents They are also highly abusive, not only physically but also emotionally, often rendering the girls into danger From the novel it is suspected that these are done often maliciously and the parents will often try to turn the girls against each other to see how far they will go It also shows the love that transpires between the girls and their parents, as the girls have no idea that these abuses are wrong and still only want to please and receive approval and love from their parents Some of this story has been characterised as dystopian however it does eerily mirror the reality of many girls and women They are taught to fear men and the outside world as they will only use and abuse you It shows how desperate measures are taken to raise a daughter. It takes a gifted author to write a book that is simultaneously beautiful and horrifying I don t think I could have read this book if it wasn t written so exquisitely the words flow and submerse you in their eloquent beauty And yet And yet, the story is disturbing It is not for everyone, but it is well worth reading if you can stomach it The Water Cure tells the story of 3 sisters who were raised in isolation and taught to fear the outside world, especially men Their parents, in order to strengthen and purify them, subject them to horrific rituals The mother is especially sadistic She believes the abuse she heaps upon her daughters is necessary, and they in turn believe it is love that compels their parents to abuse them Sophie Mackintosh expertly shows how the definition of love is warped in the minds of abused children The sisters are not just abused by their parents, but are also forced to harm each other in terrible ways, leading them to believe that if you love someone, you will hurt them When their father goes missing and strange men appear, the sisters are torn between their fear and distrust and their interest and desire This is a quiet book, introspective, narrated by the sisters in turn It could have been a quick read it s under 300 pages , but instead I found I wanted to read it slowly, absorbing every word, reflecting on the story There is much to contemplate, and it is well worth reading if you can handle reading about child abuse I cannot decide if I want to give this 4 or 5 stars As I always round up instead of down, I ve rated it 5 Beautiful, mesmerizing, and haunting I m sure this book will stay with me for quite awhile. For full review, please visit my blog stars I haven t read such a weird novel since long time I read the reviews and there are lovers and there are people who dislike it a lot I think I can say, it wasn t a pleasant read that blew my mind, but I didn t hate it as well I think I can see some people will feel comfortable with the book than others because of its style.First of all, it s said that the book is dystopian This created an expectation for me, thinking it ll be a whole world building with its set up, reasons, energy It s not at all Everything is very vague with this book, very abstract We never learn the reasons behind this set up and what s actually happening So, to like this book, you need to be OK with an abstract setting The fact that the book is set up in a world that s not our world, doesn t make it exactly dystopian, as there s not anything else behind it.The writing style is very fluid, atmospheric, metaphorical and strange It s one of those you re expected to read between the lines a lot It starts with a lot of suspense build up We get chapters of half a page, a page at the beginning Long time, you won t understand anything If you ask me, this went on for an unnecessarily long time So, I m guessing there will be lots of people giving up at this point I think after around 40 50% of the book, we get to have proper long chapters with writing that feels like a plot or at least a story It was not easy to get through, and at times I ll be honest, I was bored.The book is mainly told from Lia s main character perspective I can say that one was well developed throughout the book But, we didn t get to know the others much, which may be intentional by the author anyway.In summary, it was a strange read that s not for everyone If you enjoy abstract writing, with no clear plot or set up, and like trying to make sense of the metaphorical style, you might like it I m a reader, who likes a solid plot with a good set up, reasons explained I also like to have stronger character development, which will make you care for them That s why it wasn t my cup of tea Also, the idea of a dystopia where women are in trouble is an overused concept if you ask me So, I didn t find the content so creative as well. The Water Cure is the first book I selected to read from the recently released 2018 Booker longlist I chose this one simply as it ended up being the first one I came across in the local bookshop I went into this blind not even aware it was a female dystopia.The writing is initially compelling, told in a sort of dreamy languid prose, the surroundings could be some sort of abandoned, decrepit, beachside resort if not for the unsettling cures You are never entirely sure if this family are survivors of some global apocalypse or the remnants of a cult The story is told briefly from the changing viewpoints of three sisters, but then almost entirely from one sister, Lia I am pleased the multi voice was dropped early on as I couldn t distinguish clearly between each sister in the beginning I have come to the conclusion that I am not the right reader for feminist dystopia I didn t enjoy The Power or The Natural Way of Things , both books that seem to me to explore a world view that boils down to, if you let them, men will drift to their base instincts and try to kill you I always hope for nuance in these ideas but I didn t particularly find it here The inevitable appearance of men in The Water Cure doesn t end well in ways that are unsurprising What I did admire was the prose, lyrical and lush with some some interesting ideas and a determination not to tell you everything you might wish to know I enjoyed playing the game of creating my own backstory to fill in some of the gaps left by the story, in which case this will make for a great book club book But ultimately I found The Water Cure emotionally cold and it made me feel a little miserable actually One could argue that this means the writer is doing their job, giving you some kind of emotional response This is a stunning debut novel that is deeply affecting and atmospheric but there is no getting away from the basic fact I didn t get much pleasure from it.
- 288 pages
- The Water Cure
- Sophie Mackintosh
- 26 March 2019 Sophie Mackintosh