Full disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Penguin Random House Canada in exchange for an honest review.
We’re all aware that in the last few years there’s been renewed interest in feminist dystopian writing. Margaret Atwood gets trotted out to crown new authors and we keep searching for someone to write something that captures how we feel.
The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh definitely fits this description, down to a Margaret Atwood quote on the cover: “a gripping, sinister fable” she calls it. But if you look more closely, you will also see that this was nominated for the Man Booker Prize and you know what that means.
It means that the book will barely be readable, undone by lofty prose pretending to tell big truths about how to human.
Grace, Lia and Sky are sisters held captive on some kind of island by their parents. Their father, who they sickeningly call King (could be his name, could be a title, either way: ew), has disappeared after going to the mainland for supplies. He is presumed dead and it is up to their mother, a woman who takes far too much enjoyment out of meting punishments to the girls for their transgressions, to keep them safe.
But safe from what? Presumably men and the things that they do to women. But what is King doing to these women, his daughters? One of them is pregnant and how did that happen when he’s the only man on the ‘island’? With their father gone, Grace, Lia and Sky along with their mother must fend for themselves when three males find their way onto the island.
It seems like The Water Cure is supposed to be some kind of thrilling fable, a cat and mouse game on an island inhabited only by women and the man who has taken it upon himself to guard their virtue. But I spent most of the book just wondering what the hell was even happening. It seems like perhaps Mackintosh was so busy ensuring her prose was beguiling and vaguely sinister to remember to actually incorporate any kind of plot. All these shadowy insinuations on what happened to force the family to the island never come to anything, the reasons for the men coming to the island are hardly more clear and the ‘resolution’ if we can call it that, left much to be desired.
Don’t even get me started on the odd 2nd person storytelling in the beginning.
The Water Cure clocks in at just 266 pages but I lost count of how many times I checked to see how many pages I had left. I probably should have DNF’d this but I was so sure there would be some kind of payoff.
There wasn’t. Shame. I’d have loved to have found a cool new feminist dystopian novel.