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The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Virgin Suicides in this dystopic feminist revenge fantasy about three sisters on an isolated island, raised to fear men King has tenderly staked out a territory for his wife and three daughters, Grace, Lia, and Sky. He has laid the barbed wire; he has anchored the buoys in the water; he has marked out a clear message: Do not enter. Or viewed fr The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Virgin Suicides in this dystopic feminist revenge fantasy about three sisters on an isolated island, raised to fear men King has tenderly staked out a territory for his wife and three daughters, Grace, Lia, and Sky. He has laid 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 world. But when their father, the only man they’ve ever seen, disappears, they retreat further inward until the day three strange men 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 the men? 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.


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The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Virgin Suicides in this dystopic feminist revenge fantasy about three sisters on an isolated island, raised to fear men King has tenderly staked out a territory for his wife and three daughters, Grace, Lia, and Sky. He has laid the barbed wire; he has anchored the buoys in the water; he has marked out a clear message: Do not enter. Or viewed fr The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Virgin Suicides in this dystopic feminist revenge fantasy about three sisters on an isolated island, raised to fear men King has tenderly staked out a territory for his wife and three daughters, Grace, Lia, and Sky. He has laid 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 world. But when their father, the only man they’ve ever seen, disappears, they retreat further inward until the day three strange men 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 the men? 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.

30 review for The Water Cure

  1. 4 out of 5

    Meike

    Of course you can slap the label "feminist dystopia" on a book in order to sell more 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, Of course you can slap the label "feminist dystopia" on a book in order to sell more 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, well...things 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.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    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 Mac 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 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.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Greendale

    All the monsters in this book are women.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Amalia Gavea

    ‘’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 ‘’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 more 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 https://theopinionatedreaderblog.word...

  5. 4 out of 5

    Britta Böhler

    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 Jenni 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*

  6. 4 out of 5

    Yun

    In The Water Cure, three sisters live with their mother and father on an island cut off from the rest of the world. They are taught from a young age that women must be protected from the terror and violence of men, and that the real world is filled with toxins that would degrade and sicken them. When their father disappears and two men and a boy show up on their island, their lives upend. What follows for the sisters is the slow disintegration of their lives that they have always feared. The stor In The Water Cure, three sisters live with their mother and father on an island cut off from the rest of the world. They are taught from a young age that women must be protected from the terror and violence of men, and that the real world is filled with toxins that would degrade and sicken them. When their father disappears and two men and a boy show up on their island, their lives upend. What follows for the sisters is the slow disintegration of their lives that they have always feared. The story is divided into three parts, and I found the first two to be decent, though not great. The prose is dreamlike and evocative, filled with lots of feelings and thoughts. We spend a lot of time getting to know the cruel punishments and rituals their parents subject them to in order to cleanse their bodies and minds and be rid of the world's toxins. But then I got to the third part, and it completely fell apart for me. This book has an extremely simplistic and pessimistic view of the genders. Women are universally awesome and filled with the spirit of love and sisterhood; men are irredeemably bad from the moment of their births. It completely disregards individuality. Every person fits in one or the other gender, and they surely must act in accordance with that, without any ability to think for themselves. It's an extremely tribalistic view of "us versus them", and in our world today, we need less of that thinking, not more. Though it's laid out as a story of redemption, it doesn't feel that way to me. Rather, the message seems to be that you are what your parents teach you, and you can never grow to be more than that. There's no hope of figuring out your own mind or your own wishes. And that translates to not having to take responsibility for one's own actions. The book essentially says that their parents and their circumstances made the sisters into who they are, and as a result, they are not responsible for the bad things they do onto others. Just... no. I'm appalled by the violence and complete disregard that the three women have for others, which is disguised as righteousness. In the end, what are the men's heinous crimes? Well, it's to love and leave. Sure, that is unkind, but it's not deserving of death or torture. It's also not deserving of the women living in constant fear or acting so hysterical throughout. If the gender roles in this book were reversed, I can't imagine this book would be allowed to be published. Women would be up in arms over the misogyny. This book is marked as feminist, but it isn't. It's making mountains out of molehills and being as purposefully hurt as possible over small slights. It's being cruel to a group of people, to those you would label as "others" who are different from yourself. And that's not ok. In the end, I strongly disagree with the message of this book. As someone who, like almost everyone out there, has had the painful experience of being lumped into a group and seen as a stereotype rather than an individual, I just don't understand or agree with the spirit of this story.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lucy Langford

    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 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.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Felice Laverne

    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 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)] Grace is pregnant, though she’s only ever even seen one man her entire life, her father. Lia is in the middle of a summer without love; the summer that the men arrive, she’s been chosen in one of the family’s rituals to be the person who goes without love until names are picked out of the bag again. Sky is childlike and innocent, wholly dependent on their family unit and unwilling to stray from its teachings. So, when King, their father dies, and the mother and three daughters are left alone on the island, anything can happen. There are two aesthetic items that really stood out to me about this book: the title, which is perfectly harmonious with the content, and the beautiful imagery of the cover, which accurately ties it all together. Both of these are fantastic representations of the bedrock of this book. Admittedly, The Water Cure started out rough, and I was tempted to put it down. Part one is a series of vignettes—short, broken glimpses into their world that failed to satisfy. There was not enough to fully hold on to. I found the first part of this three-part the novel to be yet another example of a narrative full of frilly words and curlicue phrases that all amounted to nothing—exposition that skirted the truth of their reality, trying to veil it or twirl around it in a way that was annoyingly (and often confusingly) evasive. I wished—no YEARNED—for Mackintosh to write head on instead of in a mass of purple prose nothingness. Luckily, I was offered some reprieve in Part Two, where the narrative style switches up a bit, though it never wanders too far from its narrative foundation of swirly prose writing. ENTER JAMES, LLEW AND GWIL. James and Llew are brothers who wash up on shore with Llew’s young son, Gwil. They seek refuge until rescuers come to bring them home from the island, and they endure extreme measures on the part of the girls’ mother who has not been around men, other than her now-deceased husband, in years. Once she deems them safe enough to inhabit their land until they are rescued, this novel starts to unwind and make a little more sense. Part two centers around Lia, the middle daughter who cuts her thighs to feel something, the sister who has not been assigned love in one of their ritualistic ceremonies— ‘Hurt Grace, or Sky will have to…’ You know I have no choice…She showed no reaction at first, but by the end she was biting viciously through the cloth. I knew it was involuntary…She let out a high noise from between her teeth, a constant pitch, like a stinging insect. It was unbearable. —It is, in part, this lack of love that drives her into the arms of Llew. But Lia has no romantic experience with men. Imagine the playfulness, the flirtation, the mixed signals and the desire that we’ve all experienced in our youths; now imagine that happening in an occult setting where men are the enemy to a girl who is starved of love. You can see how this would be a recipe for insert any number of words here. James finds me crying in the garden, where I thought nobody would look. Somehow I am a child again and nobody wants to go near me, nobody can cope with how badly I want to be held, or touched, or listened to, and there is nothing I can ever do about it. Each chapter in part two starts with an excerpt, presumably from an entry in the Welcome Book left behind by a woman who has sought out their occult home in search of refuge from the destruction of men in the past. The thing is, without context—and with the author still clinging to the evasive narrative techniques of part one—a lot of the excerpts made little sense to me and failed to move the story forward in any meaningful way, not even by adding atmosphere. Also, this novel likely would have been better off written completely in 3rd person. Lia’s chapters bothered me, because she speaks in first person using words like “surreptitiously,” though there’s never a word written about these girls, living isolated from all other civilization aside from their five-person family and the occasional female traveler, ever going to school. They learned to read on their own from books lying around the house that were eventually taken away before the third sister could even learn to read, so that just came off as weird and inaccurate. The blurb praises The Water Cure as The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Virgin Suicides. Ummmm, The Handmaid’s Tale, not so much. The Virgin Suicides, maybeeeeee. Really, it reminded me of Gather the Daughters , a novel I THOROUGHLY enjoyed, meets Lord of the Flies. If that description appeals to you, you’ll definitely want to pick up Sophie Mackintosh’s The Water Cure. (view spoiler)[I also didn't find this book to be "dystopic" since it's not really set post-end of the world. The family is just self-isolated. (hide spoiler)] While I was put off by the evasiveness of the first part of the novel, the narrative came together much better as the novel progressed. It was a quick read that I gobbled up in 24 hours, and it managed to put its own spin on a narrative that’s been done before. For that, I thought it fitting to give this book 3.5 stars rounded up to 4. **** FOLLOW ME HERE: Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram | Get a Copy of My Book | Book Editing, Author Coaching, Submit Your Book to Me

  9. 5 out of 5

    Umut Rados

    For full review, please visit my blog: https://umutreviews.wordpress.com/201... 2.5 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 more comfortable with the book than others because of its style. First of all, it’s said that the book is dystopian. This created an expectatio For full review, please visit my blog: https://umutreviews.wordpress.com/201... 2.5 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 more 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 more 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.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Marchpane

    In this debut novel, three daughters live in seclusion from the world because their parents have told them that men are evil and somehow also – literally – toxic. The ‘dystopian’ premise is just a pretext for their isolation, because what The Water Cure is really concerned with is the psychological effects of isolation and abuse, and the complicated relationship between the sisters who have had to endure it. Forced by their parents to play cruel mind games and withhold love from one another, thei In this debut novel, three daughters live in seclusion from the world because their parents have told them that men are evil and somehow also – literally – toxic. The ‘dystopian’ premise is just a pretext for their isolation, because what The Water Cure is really concerned with is the psychological effects of isolation and abuse, and the complicated relationship between the sisters who have had to endure it. Forced by their parents to play cruel mind games and withhold love from one another, their notions of love are screwed up to say the least. Lia’s ideas about love are tested when some strange men arrive, while Grace, who is pregnant at the start of the book, has already had a defining experience of her own. This theme of misdirected love wasn’t explored in sufficient depth though. I found myself thinking of The Water Cure as a sort of gothic romance updated to a millennial colour palette. The tropes are there: enforced isolation, abusive spouse/parent, repressed female sexuality, an unseen menace and tragic consequences. There’s even a large but mostly empty building, in this case it’s a disused hotel rather than a castle or mansion. This particular gothic formula has been updated before, in Rebecca, Wide Sargasso Sea, even Flowers in the Attic. It used to be that the women confined in these stories were mostly the wives, nowadays it seems they are usually the daughters. Make of that what you will, I guess. The girls are pale, underfed, bruised, always with dark circles under the eyes – a depiction that disappointingly glamourises them, especially considering that one of them self-harms. The men are neither sufficiently menacing as threats, nor believable as real people, leaving them to exist only as plot devices. As one of the visitors, James, attempts to convince Grace that she’s been brainwashed, he is unable to deny that men can be malevolent: ‘The world is not what you have been told,’ he says after the second glass. He is reckless now, as if the water has triggered something in him, strengthened his resolve somehow. He speaks as if from a long way away. ‘I mean, the world is very terrible, but you have been told a number of things that are untrue.’ … ‘But you can’t deny that men are killing women?’ I say. ‘Well, no, I can’t. But it’s not like you think.’ It’s a neat inversion of the Not All Men argument which leaves us no closer to determining whether this is a futuristic invented world or the same one as our own. This is probably the closest that the book gets to a feminist comment, if an oblique one. The third sister, Sky, is very much in the background. This is kind of baffling until a blink-and-you'll-miss-it twist towards the end (view spoiler)[reveals that she is not a young child as we are led to believe, but 18 years old. Grace is 30 and Lia 28, much older than the petulant teen she appears to be (hide spoiler)] - a twist that would have been impossible had Sky been given her own POV chapters. Again, clever, but ultimately not adding up to much. The final resolution plays out with few surprises (excepting the reveal mentioned above), and it lacks a real sense of a reckoning. With one crucial event occurring “off-stage”, and others largely skimmed over, it felt like the opportunities for emotional impact were rather wasted. Even the most dramatic moments retain the same languid, slow-motion feeling that pervades the whole book. With a foot in each camp, The Water Cure doesn’t totally succeed in being either a topical feminist dystopia or a modern take on the Gothic tradition. To me, it was mostly atmosphere with not quite enough substance.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    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 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.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Trudie

    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 su 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 more 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.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Dianne

    I am wrapping up my quest to read all of the 2018 Man Booker longlist nominees. I have read 9 of the 13 so far and have, surprisingly, enjoyed every one I’ve read. I dragged my heels on this one as long as I could – it has low reviews on Goodreads and its teaser as a “dystopic feminist revenge fantasy” did not exactly float my boat. Really? Did I want to wallow in any more feminist rage this year? Nope. But the only way to the end is through, so I picked this up at the library and decided to suc I am wrapping up my quest to read all of the 2018 Man Booker longlist nominees. I have read 9 of the 13 so far and have, surprisingly, enjoyed every one I’ve read. I dragged my heels on this one as long as I could – it has low reviews on Goodreads and its teaser as a “dystopic feminist revenge fantasy” did not exactly float my boat. Really? Did I want to wallow in any more feminist rage this year? Nope. But the only way to the end is through, so I picked this up at the library and decided to suck it up and get it over with. You know what? I loved it! Shit!! Yes, it is SORT OF a dystopic feminist revenge fantasy, but the story is much more complicated and nuanced than that. The story takes place on what appears to be an island in close proximity to the mainland. Three sisters and their mother and father live in isolation in an old mansion, surrounded by woods, mountain and sea. Barbed wire has been set in the woods to denote the boundaries – do not enter. Do not leave. There is some never fully described “toxicity” on the mainland that they have fled. The family unit is clearly patriarchal (their father is called King – subtle). There are many rituals, ceremonies and therapies that the mother and daughters perform on themselves and each other to reduce their feelings, which are described as personal energies dangerous to women. In the past, other women have found their way to the island, damaged and broken, fleeing the unspecified toxicity. They eventually leave, strengthened after undergoing the therapies devised by King and the mother. But those women have not visited the island in some time, leaving the little family further isolated and alone. One day, King unexpectedly leaves and does not return. The mother and daughters perform their odd rituals to cleanse themselves of their grief. Water. Salt. Muslin. Iron. They snipe at each other and get through the long, lonely days until one day a storm washes up some unexpected flotsam from the sea. Two men and a young boy appear on their beach. Aside from King, these are the only men the sisters have ever seen. “Men have come to us,” says mother. The story is narrated in turn by the daughters as a group, by Lia (middle daughter) and Grace (eldest daughter). Sky is the youngest. Lia is the primary narrator – deeply lonely and starved for love, she develops a fascination with one of the men. Her eagerness for love compromises her family and leads to startling revelations and consequences. The story is enigmatic and takes some time to unwind, but it’s worth the wait for it to unfold completely. The writing is beautiful, haunting and dreamy. Symbols, metaphors and allegories abound. There are many truths about the differences between men and women and how we may “interpret” these differences. This book is so very odd and wonderful; it’s one hell of a debut novel. This is one of those books I don’t dare recommend to anyone, but if you like different and unique books and cherish immaculate writing, you may enjoy this.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Bex (Beckie Bookworm)

    Arc Book Review Release Date-24/5/18 This one really wasn't for me at all and originally I did stop at 39% and it was going to be a DNF. But I decided to persevere and forced myself to finish. Hoping it would get better. I’m sorry to say for me it didn’t. So although on paper this seemed a good fit for me in actuality it just wasn't. I have seen reviews on "The Wate Cure" praising the brilliance of the prose and yes while I do agree the language used here had an almost fluid brilliance to it it stil Arc Book Review Release Date-24/5/18 This one really wasn't for me at all and originally I did stop at 39% and it was going to be a DNF. But I decided to persevere and forced myself to finish. Hoping it would get better. I’m sorry to say for me it didn’t. So although on paper this seemed a good fit for me in actuality it just wasn't. I have seen reviews on "The Wate Cure" praising the brilliance of the prose and yes while I do agree the language used here had an almost fluid brilliance to it it still for me fell flat in capturing and then retaining my complete attention. I don't mind admitting I felt a little lost in my overall comprehension here and while scratching my head still in confusion at a third in I decided enough was enough. That was when I decided to down tools before later reconsidering as I just didn’t want to be beaten by this. I really didn't have the foggiest most of the time what the deal was here and if I'm honest I was bored and couldn't be bothered to stay the course and find out really. It was my sheer bloody determination that got me through this. I am if I'm honest slightly disappointed as the blurb for this was ever so intriguing but In my opinion, this was spoiled by attempting to be too highbrow in its execution keeping me in an unnecessary state of confusion that for me rather than making me want to know more just did the complete opposite. I don’t know what I expected from this but this sure wasn’t it. Maybe I'm just not clever enough to truly appreciate “The Water Cure" I read to escape and this was just too much like hard work for me. I'm sure there are others who will absolutely adore this strange dystopian type drama I'm just really not one of them sorry. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an ARC of "The Water Cure" of which I have reviewed voluntary. All opinions expressed are entirely my own. Reviewed By Beckie Bookworm. https://www.facebook.com/beckiebookworm/ www.beckiebookworm.com

  15. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    I have to start this review by acknowledging that The Water Cure is definitely a polarising book- it’s not one that is going to be for everyone. That being said, Mackintosh hit a few of the things I find most engaging as a reader. I’ve seen this described a feminist novel, and as a dystopia, but I don’t think either is accurate. If you go into this expecting either, you’re bound to be disappointed. Sure, this is a novel about the patriarchy, and in it, women are literally sickened by it. Yes, the I have to start this review by acknowledging that The Water Cure is definitely a polarising book- it’s not one that is going to be for everyone. That being said, Mackintosh hit a few of the things I find most engaging as a reader. I’ve seen this described a feminist novel, and as a dystopia, but I don’t think either is accurate. If you go into this expecting either, you’re bound to be disappointed. Sure, this is a novel about the patriarchy, and in it, women are literally sickened by it. Yes, the characters live in isolated seclusion, sequestered from the “real” world, where it is suggested that terrible things have transpired. But I read this novel as the story of an extreme response to that which already exists in our world- a story of isolation more than a story about feminism. The narrative voice is one which is probably also polarising. This novel, although intensely charged, is slow and meandering: it is indirect and at times unfocused. What we need to see, in order to understand what is happening is always in the periphery. I enjoyed this, it sucked me right in and reminded me somewhat of The Virgin Suicides. Mackintosh’s debut novel is not perfect, it’s pacing is uneven, and the ending rushed. However I think it asks some really important questions about ideas that need urgent attention. Where does the collective end, and the self begin? How much of that self do we sacrifice for the collective? Can isolation truly protect us from the harms of the world, or does it in turn make us vulnerable to new and greater harms? When is masculinity admirable, and when is it toxic? Who decides that, and why? What role does our ongoing complex relationship with masculinity contribute to the harms it brings to women? When, indeed can, violence be justified? Will we ever truly escape the social construct of the patriarchy? Will women always be vulnerable to harm?

  16. 5 out of 5

    Dannii Elle

    This is a dystopian unlike any other I have read before. The world reaches to the very horizon and yet is contained to the interior of one house. The landscape is sparse on concrete detail yet the feel of the forest ferns or the gentle pull and release of the tides is portrayed in startling clarity. The characters are incredibly nuanced and yet my mind can fail to properly depict them. This is a book of juxtapositions that is as uncomfortable to read as it is in construction and I adored every m This is a dystopian unlike any other I have read before. The world reaches to the very horizon and yet is contained to the interior of one house. The landscape is sparse on concrete detail yet the feel of the forest ferns or the gentle pull and release of the tides is portrayed in startling clarity. The characters are incredibly nuanced and yet my mind can fail to properly depict them. This is a book of juxtapositions that is as uncomfortable to read as it is in construction and I adored every maddeningly contrasting page of it. I can imagine it will divide readers with its ungraspable quality but was worth every furrow of my brow for the sublime awe I dually felt whilst reading it.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Emily B

    I found the first part of this novel difficult as I could not really differentiate between the female characters that were narrating alternatively. However by the second part only one character was narrating and things seemed a little clearer. By this time I was hooked. The ambiguity wasn’t frustrating for me as it has been in other reads and I loved the strangeness. Something about Lia’s loneliness and longing really resonated with me and I found it both heartbreaking and beautiful. This is a n I found the first part of this novel difficult as I could not really differentiate between the female characters that were narrating alternatively. However by the second part only one character was narrating and things seemed a little clearer. By this time I was hooked. The ambiguity wasn’t frustrating for me as it has been in other reads and I loved the strangeness. Something about Lia’s loneliness and longing really resonated with me and I found it both heartbreaking and beautiful. This is a novel that will be on my mind for a while and I would reread in the future

  18. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    The Water Cure was nothing like I expected, but I ended up enjoying it all the more for that. This is a vaguely unsettling, eerie tale of three sisters who were raised by their parents on a remote island to fear all men other than their father. They believe the outside world is dangerous and toxic, and they regularly perform painful rituals and 'therapies' to cleanse themselves. But then their father vanishes without a trace and three strange men wash up on their shore, and the novel takes place The Water Cure was nothing like I expected, but I ended up enjoying it all the more for that. This is a vaguely unsettling, eerie tale of three sisters who were raised by their parents on a remote island to fear all men other than their father. They believe the outside world is dangerous and toxic, and they regularly perform painful rituals and 'therapies' to cleanse themselves. But then their father vanishes without a trace and three strange men wash up on their shore, and the novel takes place over the span of the week that follows. The biggest surprise for me was that I was expecting a Handmaid's Tale-esque feminist dystopia, but in reality I wouldn't actually describe this book as a dystopia at all. I think a certain amount of ambiguity in this regard is intentional, especially at first, and I think there is going to be some healthy debate about how you can read this book, as a lot of questions deliberately go unanswered. But if the appeal of dystopias to you is the worldbuilding and big picture stuff, The Water Cure will undoubtedly disappoint. To me this felt more like an allegorical contemporary (or if not contemporary, at least set in the very near-future) whose strength lies more in its exploration of complex interpersonal dynamics than in its merit as a dystopic text. I'd compare it to King Lear or The Beguiled (and I would not be surprised if Sofia Coppola directed an eventual film adaptation) over The Handmaid's Tale or The Power. But for me, its inability to fit neatly into the 'feminist dystopia' genre is only an asset. Sophie Mackintosh has created something strong and uniquely unsettling. Her prose is remarkably lyrical, and the insular setting she crafts is at once immersive and claustrophobic. This is a novel whose themes exist slightly below the surface, and though it has a lot to say about gender roles and social dynamics and what it means to exist in modern society as a woman, none of this leaps off the page at a quick glance. There's an incredible amount of depth and subtlety here, especially for such a short novel. The biggest problem - really, the only problem - I had with this novel was that I was occasionally unconvinced by the fact that these sisters had lived their entire lives so removed from society. Not only were their vocabularies littered with colloquial phrases in a way that seemed at odds from how their parents spoke, at times they drew generalizations about human nature in a way that didn't ring true for someone with such a limited world view. But this is something I found myself forgiving more and more as the novel went on, as it ultimately had the air of a fable, and I didn't find myself too hung up on the details. Basically, don't expect another Handmaid's Tale, but don't think it isn't worth your time because of that. I actually liked The Water Cure better. Thank you to Netgalley, Doubleday Books, and Sophie Mackintosh for the advanced copy provided in exchange for an honest review.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Ova - Excuse My Reading

    This was a very intense book- and the most confusing novels I have ever read this year. The start of it made me feel like I am reading about being damaged by a man, being left, loveless. You know when you get heart ache you feel your family is the one and only place you can get unconditional love, no matter what you are. Then it started getting confusing altogether. My first issue with the novel was the point of view. It was multiple, but after one point it fixed on Lia for ages. I felt the need This was a very intense book- and the most confusing novels I have ever read this year. The start of it made me feel like I am reading about being damaged by a man, being left, loveless. You know when you get heart ache you feel your family is the one and only place you can get unconditional love, no matter what you are. Then it started getting confusing altogether. My first issue with the novel was the point of view. It was multiple, but after one point it fixed on Lia for ages. I felt the need to switch between Lia and Grace rather than getting stuck in Lia -which felt needy and teenager-like, but I guess that was the intention. And Sky: why was she in this book. Just another girl? What was her role. I really enjoyed the first half of the book. It was an eerie-tale. Dark, obsessive. Mackintosh's imagination blew me away. The practices of 'water cure' are so similar with things happening to girls all around the world. In some countries girls get slapped when they get their first period bleeding. This is to ensure they become obeying, dutiful wives. Some people banish women from their houses during menstrual bleeding. So I totally get the point in Mackintosh's dystopian world. And I was ready to give a fat 4 stars but then things got confusing. I was lost after 80% of the book. Sudden, action packed ending with a few flashbacks that weren't enough for my thirst of knowing. I would have preferred a more vague ending- because what has been revealed isn't and won't be satisfying to a tale like that. The dreaminess of the first half was clouded by the end-reveal for me. I agree that it is Virgin Suicides meets Handmaid's Tale- and in some bits I swear I could see Mackintosh winking to Angela Carter- the red velvet and wolf etc. (Highlighted on my kindle!)

  20. 4 out of 5

    Monica

    I can't decide if this is a simply a cautionary tale against men, against the destruction of our natural habitats, or against society as a whole. There is a power struggle between the parents and three sisters. Even after the "death" of the father, he still played a prominent role in the family's traditions and behavior. This story was never cohesive at all. The viewpoints switched often and were so similar I had a very hard time determining which sister was narrating. I would note warnings for I can't decide if this is a simply a cautionary tale against men, against the destruction of our natural habitats, or against society as a whole. There is a power struggle between the parents and three sisters. Even after the "death" of the father, he still played a prominent role in the family's traditions and behavior. This story was never cohesive at all. The viewpoints switched often and were so similar I had a very hard time determining which sister was narrating. I would note warnings for self harm and violence; this is certainly not a young adult novel. Thanks to NetGalley and publishers for the advanced reader's copy in exchange for my honest review.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Hugh

    Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018 My fifth book from this year's longlist and the first one I find it difficult to be very positive about. Dystopian fantasy has never been my favourite genre, so I don't want to be too negative either. The plot centres on a family living in isolation on a coast protected by forest in a world affected by a largely unspecified environmental catastrophe. The three teenaged sisters are Grace, Lia and Sky, the first two of whom narrate the story. Their father, k Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018 My fifth book from this year's longlist and the first one I find it difficult to be very positive about. Dystopian fantasy has never been my favourite genre, so I don't want to be too negative either. The plot centres on a family living in isolation on a coast protected by forest in a world affected by a largely unspecified environmental catastrophe. The three teenaged sisters are Grace, Lia and Sky, the first two of whom narrate the story. Their father, known simply as King, leaves them on what seems to be a regular trip to the outside community at the start of the book and fails to return. In the first part some details of the girls' lives are established, that they are isolated for their own protection and that women on the mainland suffer at the hands of men and used to come to the family's house to be cured. This cure is a mixture of quasi-religious ceremony and cruel tests of endurance which are also inflicted on the girls, who live in a weird nightmarish mixture of innocence and fear. Things change in the second section, which is mostly narrated by Lia. Two men and a boy appear, the mother disappears shortly afterwards, and Lia falls in love with one of them. To say more about the plot would spoil it, but in the bloody denouement none of the main characters emerges with much credit.. For much of the book the reasons behind the scenario are as opaque to the reader as they seem to the girls, though there is a partial explanation in the final part, which is mostly narrated by the eldest girl Grace. When I read Fever Dream a few weeks ago I remember commenting on what personal things dreams and nightmares can be and how difficult it can be to follow somebody else's, and this book left me with a similar feeling.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    The writing in this book, and the way the author is able to describe the somewhat strange setting, is stellar. In the Man Booker Prize longlist wasteland that is 2018, I found it one of the more compelling reads. I love the little backstory italic parts between chapters, the ending and questioning everything, and the sisters. I felt like the story itself, what actually happens, to be less satisfying. The italics backstory is where the story connects most with other recent books from The Power by The writing in this book, and the way the author is able to describe the somewhat strange setting, is stellar. In the Man Booker Prize longlist wasteland that is 2018, I found it one of the more compelling reads. I love the little backstory italic parts between chapters, the ending and questioning everything, and the sisters. I felt like the story itself, what actually happens, to be less satisfying. The italics backstory is where the story connects most with other recent books from The Power by Naomii Alderman to Red Clocks by Leni Zumas. Here is one passage in particular: "I didn't understand how rapidly things had changed, how all that had been needed was permission for everything to go to shit, and that permission had been granted. I didn't know that there was no longer any need for the men to hold their bodies in check or to carry on the lie that we mattered." These sections make the reader think they know what the book is. But is that what it is? I have no idea how to classify it now that I've reached the end. (view spoiler)[Is this dystopia on a grand scale or more like Room is for the two in it? Are there actual environmental toxins going on or are the daughters being poisoned? Is the third sister really not related or was that a convenient story to tell for King to get what he wanted? Who were the women who used to be with them, and why aren't there any more? (hide spoiler)] I have to admit, I kind of liked mulling over these questions, maybe the best part of my reading experience. That coupled with the writing made it more of a solid read for me. Thanks to the publisher for providing access to this title through NetGalley. It doesn't come out in the USA until 9 January 2019, but my library bought it already so it can be found online. And I wanted to try to finish it before the shortlist was announced.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Gumble's Yard

    Once we [three sisters] have a father, but our father dies without us noticing. As a father of three daughters this probably counts as the personally most arresting opening sentence I have read in this novel which I had already ordered but went to the top of my reading pile after its long listing for the 2018 Booker Prize. On one level this book is a feminist dystopia - and like many dystopias takes an element of the observed world and extrapolates in an imagined but imaginable way. In this Once we [three sisters] have a father, but our father dies without us noticing. As a father of three daughters this probably counts as the personally most arresting opening sentence I have read in this novel which I had already ordered but went to the top of my reading pile after its long listing for the 2018 Booker Prize. On one level this book is a feminist dystopia - and like many dystopias takes an element of the observed world and extrapolates in an imagined but imaginable way. In this case, the book proceeds from toxic masculinity and takes it to a literary as well as literal conclusion to imagine a world where men are poisonous to women. Perhaps though unlike many other dystopias which explore in a circular fashion their central idea and its implications (for example The Power) - here this idea, although I think vital to the book’s foundation, represents more of a starting point for a book which is light on exposition and heavy on ambiguity. I was reminded of Red Clocks a book which as I said in my review was “more about relationships between women explored within a patriarchal/misogynistic world rather than just exploring the structure of that patriarchy”. At the heart of this ambiguity to the reader (but as the book concludes to the girls) is: the degree of truth in the story their parents - King and Mother - tell them of the dangers of the outside world; the extent to which this danger, even if assumed true, justifies the controlling (almost cultish) regime of (borderline abusive) treatments and restrictive prescriptions that King, with the aid of Mother, impose on them. The three girls narrate the book in first party sections (mainly individually in the voices of the two older sisters Grace and Lia, with the middle sister Lia dominating the centre of the book, but at the start and finish in a chorus with their younger sister Sky who is seen as an uncorrupted other to be protected and shielded). Due to the absence of exposition and excess of ambiguity, the book is like an incomplete canvas on which the reader can sketch and colour their own interpretations. The book is heavy on imagery of water and salt (in a way which recalls ritual bathing, cleansing ceremonies and hydro treatments) and muslin (as an image for filtering of impurities, separation and purification). There is a clear link, as hinted above, to patriarchal cults, or less extreme examples of parents imposing psychological abuse on their children. At an even more removed extreme, the book made me consider the often exaggerated warnings that the parents and even society gives to children so as to try to ensure their safety (Charley says for my generation of children, or stranger danger for my own). There is an element of environmental disaster - albeit in this case quite literally man made - and of a survivalist novel after such a drama. And I understand this idea was the initial genesis of the novel. Environmental concepts are important here. The author’s agent has described the characters as Earth, Water and Sky and this I think captures their different characters: the grounded, analytical, almost bitter Grace; the fluid Lia, moving downhill to where she can gain affection; the pure and not of this world Sky. It also captures the all encompassing relationship between the girls and the self contained environment in which they live, which is both dominated by them and all encompassing for them. As a father of three daughters and having watched their interactions and dynamics for several hours as I read and reviewed this book, the book is clearly strong on female sibling relationships; even in the absence of a voice for Sky which I have seen criticised elsewhere, perhaps not surprising given the large matriarchal Welsh family in which the author has described herself growing up. The book is also I think excellent on capturing how some parents play off children against each other - I was strongly able to relate King’s treatment of the two oldest daughters to situations I have seen in the childhood of others. There are some fascinating parallels with the #metoo movement and in particular the way people have reacted to it: including the generational divides that have occurred in the feminist movement as a result (albeit the parallel is far from exact) and some of the denial in male reaction. It is not for me to disregard their pain ... They are in the minority ... .... [he] can’t deny that men are killing women ... But it’s not like you think All of it is smoke and mirrors, overreaction ... We could be women like any other, taking the usual precautions. Yes, the risk of violence upon us is higher. Even he as a man can’t disregard that. Finally I saw strong parallels with Shakespeare. The patriarchal King trying to direct the lives of his three daughters I of course a clear nod to King Lear; however I found the more intriguing comparison to The Tempest, with Prospero creating an isolated and fully patriarchal community for he and Miranda and seeking to control her sexuality and attitude to men. Overall I enjoyed this book and am pleased to have seen it longlisted for the Booker. So this is how it begins she says, but of course it has already begun. It began for us a long time ago.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    This book was different from my usual read and that’s why I wanted to read it. Sometimes I find myself drawn to the same types of books so by reading this I was leaving my comfort zone. The story of a father called King and his wife bringing up his 3 children on an Island away from the mainland and everything toxic!! Sometimes women appear damaged with tales of abuse, violence but mysteriously leave the Island cured. It is beautifully written and very atmospheric, at times it is brutal and violent This book was different from my usual read and that’s why I wanted to read it. Sometimes I find myself drawn to the same types of books so by reading this I was leaving my comfort zone. The story of a father called King and his wife bringing up his 3 children on an Island away from the mainland and everything toxic!! Sometimes women appear damaged with tales of abuse, violence but mysteriously leave the Island cured. It is beautifully written and very atmospheric, at times it is brutal and violent but mesmerising at the same time. Thank you to Netgalley for a copy in exchange for my review.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    The first word of The Water Cure may be “Once,” but what follows is no fairy tale. Here’s the rest of that sentence: “Once we have a father, but our father dies without us noticing.” The tense seems all wrong; surely it should be “had” and “died”? From the very first line, then, Sophie Mackintosh’s debut novel has the reader wrong-footed, and there are many more moments of confusion to come. The other thing to notice in the opening sentence is the use of the first person plural. That “we” refers The first word of The Water Cure may be “Once,” but what follows is no fairy tale. Here’s the rest of that sentence: “Once we have a father, but our father dies without us noticing.” The tense seems all wrong; surely it should be “had” and “died”? From the very first line, then, Sophie Mackintosh’s debut novel has the reader wrong-footed, and there are many more moments of confusion to come. The other thing to notice in the opening sentence is the use of the first person plural. That “we” refers to three sisters: Grace, Lia and Sky. After the death of their father, King, it’s just them and their mother in a grand house on a remote island. There are frequent flashbacks to times when damaged women used to come here for therapy that sounds more like torture. The sisters still engage in similar sadomasochistic practices: sitting in a hot sauna until they faint, putting their hands and feet in buckets of ice, and playing the “drowning game” in the pool by putting on a dress laced with lead weights. Despite their isolation, the sisters are still affected by the world at large. At the end of Part I, three shipwrecked men wash up on shore and request sanctuary. The men represent new temptations and a threat to the sisters’ comfort zone. This is a strange and disorienting book. The atmosphere – lonely and lowering – is the best thing about it. Its setup is somewhat reminiscent of two Shakespeare plays, King Lear and The Tempest. With the exception of a few lines like “we look towards the rounded glow of the horizon, the air peach-ripe with toxicity,” the prose draws attention to itself in a bad way: it’s consciously literary and overwritten. In terms of the plot, it is difficult to understand, at the most basic level, what is going on and why. Speculative novels with themes of women’s repression are a dime a dozen nowadays, and the interested reader will find a better example than this one.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Eric Anderson

    Part of me has always felt a simmering sense of panic, that some unknown danger or threat could be lurking around every corner. Fear can be such a powerful impetus in our lives both for motivating us to keep ourselves safe and hindering us from fully engaging with the world. It feels essential that children should be nurtured in a way that allows them to be cautious without being so panicked they seal themselves off from experience. So I was really struck how Sophie Mackintosh’s debut novel “The Part of me has always felt a simmering sense of panic, that some unknown danger or threat could be lurking around every corner. Fear can be such a powerful impetus in our lives both for motivating us to keep ourselves safe and hindering us from fully engaging with the world. It feels essential that children should be nurtured in a way that allows them to be cautious without being so panicked they seal themselves off from experience. So I was really struck how Sophie Mackintosh’s debut novel “The Water Cure” creatively and dramatically describes a group of three sisters who exist in a perpetual state of fear. In one collectively narrated part of the story they ominously feel: “Emergency has always been with us, if not present emergency then always the idea that it is coming.” They live in a deserted and dilapidated estate on an island within the fenced boundaries designated by their mother and father who is referred to as “King”. They’ve been taught that the society outside of this circumscribed space is diseased and toxic so they never leave it and subsist on tinned foodstuffs while performing arcane and painful rituals to cleanse themselves and keep them safe. They are warned in particular about the dangers of men and how some men thrive on the toxic environment surrounding them. In the past, sick women arrived on their shores, but they didn’t live long. And one day two men and a boy arrive so that their carefully ordered existence is disrupted. In her portrayal of this intensely isolated family, Mackintosh’s hypnotic story shows the unwieldy process of development, the transformative effect of passion and the inbuilt tension between genders. Read my full review of The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh on LonesomeReader

  27. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The Water Cure tells the story of three sisters; Lia, Grace and Sky as they live a reclusive island life with Mother and the 'King'. Here they learn that the outside world will harm them, although what that is never known. But then things begin to unravel in a way that the sisters can't control. Is everything, and everyone, really as it seems? This was deeply atmospheric and strange. It's apparent from the start that something just I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The Water Cure tells the story of three sisters; Lia, Grace and Sky as they live a reclusive island life with Mother and the 'King'. Here they learn that the outside world will harm them, although what that is never known. But then things begin to unravel in a way that the sisters can't control. Is everything, and everyone, really as it seems? This was deeply atmospheric and strange. It's apparent from the start that something just isn't 'right' with how the girls live. This house is beautiful and grand, yet festers decay. Their days are filled with odd rituals designed to protect them, but they never know what it is they're being protected from. The prose are also odd and jarring, sometimes making the text hard to read and flow - but it fits perfectly with the tone of the novel, and helps to build an overall sense of unease. The plot is also deliberately evasive, and there's no world building beyond the island the women live on. Normally this would annoy me, but I felt that just as the three women know little about the reasons behind their forced protection, and the outside world, so we know little too. The author takes us on a journey down which we must determine for ourselves what is happening, and I enjoyed that. The narrators are unreliable at best, and we must decide for ourselves what's really happening. I liked that nothing is spoon fed or dumbed down. We come to our own conclusions. Im not going to deny that at times however, especially in the beginning, I found this very confusing and difficult to get past. The pace soon picks up when three men appear to disrupt the otherwise harmonious life. What happens next is obvious, yet still haunting to read. I felt for them. However, I also felt that by this point something more was going to happen. The plot is built up to such a point that I thought we'd see more of the outside world at least, or other moments of peril. But we didn't. A short and beautiful read, yet strangely annoying at times.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jo

    This book has been labelled as a Feminist dystopian novel. That was obviously done to initially sell more copies, but it certainly doesn't mean that by tossing a label on it, it automatically makes it true. It really, really irritates me, when publishers attempt to get more buyers, by telling us that the book is a modernised version of Atwoods, The Handmaids Tale. I can tell you now, that this book isn't even in the same league as The Handmaids Tale. I enjoyed Macintosh's descriptive language, a This book has been labelled as a Feminist dystopian novel. That was obviously done to initially sell more copies, but it certainly doesn't mean that by tossing a label on it, it automatically makes it true. It really, really irritates me, when publishers attempt to get more buyers, by telling us that the book is a modernised version of Atwoods, The Handmaids Tale. I can tell you now, that this book isn't even in the same league as The Handmaids Tale. I enjoyed Macintosh's descriptive language, and for the most part, I appreciated her writing style. Unfortunately, that wasn't enough to get me fully invested into the bafflingly confusing story. I honestly found the plot immensely disorientating. It was odd, but definitely not in a satisfying sense. I found I knew most of what was going to take place, because it was THAT predictable, and that for me, does not make it an intriguing or engaging read. There was also a great deal that was left unexplained, which made it highly confusing for me, and ultimately rather tedious. The torture that the girls were subjected to were strange and uncomfortable, and honestly, what was the deal with the salt? This book makes out that the males are the evil form here, when it was quite obvious to me from the beginning, that is actually the females.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    --- This review contains spoilers --- --- Trigger warnings: violence, physical and mental abuse --- 3.5 stars. The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh is the story of three sisters who are all teenagers or young adults. Lia is the main narrative voice taking up all of the middle part of the novel, with Grace and Sky having smaller narrative roles. They have lived on a protected island their entire lives, sheltered from harm and disease. When three men show up on the island, the sisters start to questio --- This review contains spoilers --- --- Trigger warnings: violence, physical and mental abuse --- 3.5 stars. The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh is the story of three sisters who are all teenagers or young adults. Lia is the main narrative voice taking up all of the middle part of the novel, with Grace and Sky having smaller narrative roles. They have lived on a protected island their entire lives, sheltered from harm and disease. When three men show up on the island, the sisters start to question all that they know and things get turned upside down. It is wonderfully written in hazy and feverish prose. Yet, it lacked some depth in storytelling and felt slightly too predictable. Much is being discussed about The Water Cure being a feminist novel. I have been thinking about whether I agree or not for a couple of days now, so here are some of my thoughts. First off, it doesn’t really help that the term feminist is being slapped on books as a label without then discussing the specific things that supposedly make it that. As much as I enjoy reading Guardian reviews and interviews, to introduce an interview with Sophie Mackintosh with these words is silly: “The Water Cure’s author says she has not written a new Handmaid’s Tale, but it would be hard for any story centred on women’s lives not to be feminist.” Just to be clear: no, just the fact of it being about women is not enough to make this a feminist novel. In the interview, Mackintosh says this: “Sometimes you scroll through Twitter and there is a horrible story like the Belfast rape case. You see a lot of really upsetting stories. That can throw off your whole day. You get angry, and that can make you feel sick. So I don’t think it’s that much of a stretch to imagine a world where you get ill from patriarchy.” I think that is quite a clever sentiment. The more I think about this novel, the more I think of as a kind of dystopian feminist satire, and I see that statement supporting this admittedly slightly-off way of reading The Water Cure. But yes, isn’t it true that what we describe as the patriarchy makes people – mostly but not exclusively women* – sick? To take this idea and give it literal meaning to me is an interesting concept. And I believe her execution is quite on point, leaving it quite uncertain what exactly the illness out there beyond the realm of the world of the sisters really is. I think one thing that makes this book a feminist novel is Mackintosh’s exploration of ownership over women’s bodies. The sisters are subject to having their bodies controlled. They have no power of decision about whether or not they want to partake in – mostly physically and mentally violent and abusive – rituals. Clearly this is an issue women in every corner of the world face, and therefore it definitely makes this a feminist issue. Beyond that, I believe The Water Cure takes some small stabs at a few themes that are definitely within feminist discussion frameworks: gender, sex, trauma, abuse. With all this in mind, I would definitely say that The Water Cure is a feminist novel.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Tiffany PSquared

    "We sisters have always been cruel in our own way, but I believe our cruelty is allowable. It kept us alive, it helps us to put things right." Grace, Lia, and Sky live with their parents in a house beside a sandy beach. That sounds like the beginning of a wonderful story, doesn't it? Who would have thought that such a benign beginning could result in such a tangled web of disappearances, deceit, and danger? King rescued his family by secluding them in a home by the bay. He and their mother taught "We sisters have always been cruel in our own way, but I believe our cruelty is allowable. It kept us alive, it helps us to put things right." Grace, Lia, and Sky live with their parents in a house beside a sandy beach. That sounds like the beginning of a wonderful story, doesn't it? Who would have thought that such a benign beginning could result in such a tangled web of disappearances, deceit, and danger? King rescued his family by secluding them in a home by the bay. He and their mother taught them to protect themselves from the toxicity of the world by performing rituals and ceremonies of cleansing. The three girls had to prove themselves strong, loyal, and loving - to their parents, to each other, to themselves. But not to men. Men weren't present in their lives. Only King. This was for their protection. Because men were the cause of all the harm and poison in the world, and being hidden away from them was the only way to survive. But when King disappears during a routine supply run, and Mother also doesn't return from her trip beyond the sea border, the sisters are stuck on their beach with three castaways. Men. And this changes everything. Sophie Mackintosh's debut novel, The Water Cure is a palpably tense look through a dystopian window at a family's search for a unique utopia, and what they end up finding instead. This is The First Book of Calamity Leek meets The Handmaid's Tale meets My Absolute Darling in all of each of their weird wackiness and horrifyingly resolute honesty about what makes society (and separation) so messed up. This is a stunning debut novel with writing that behaves like watercolors, painting the page. It was unusual, confusing, and eerie in all the best ways. And I could easily see this playing out on the big screen. **Many thanks to NetGalley, Doubleday, and the author for the opportunity to read and review this book.

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