Thursday 5 October 2023

Water by John Boyne #Water @JohnBoyneBooks @DoubledayUK @patsyirwin #BookReview


The first thing Vanessa Carvin does when she arrives on the island is change her name. To the locals, she is Willow Hale, a solitary outsider escaping Dublin to live a hermetic existence in a small cottage, not a notorious woman on the run from her past.

But scandals follow like hunting dogs. And she has some questions of her own to answer. If her ex-husband is really the monster everyone says he is, then how complicit was she in his crimes?

Escaping her old life might seem like a good idea but the choices she has made throughout her marriage have consequences. Here, on the island, Vanessa must reflect on what she did - and did not do. Only then can she discover whether she is worthy of finding peace at all.

Water by John Boyne is published by Doubleday on 2 November 2023, and is the first in a new literary quartet from Boyne. Water is followed by Earth; published May 2024, Fire in November 2024 and Air in May 2025. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review. 

I am a huge fan of John Boyne's writing, I consider him to be one of the finest living authors, his ability to transport his readers into the story is so impressive, and despite Water being only 166 pages long, I was utterly transfixed, from page one. 

We met a fifty-two year old woman who has arrived on a small island off the west coast of Ireland. The first thing that she does is change her name, the islanders know her as Willow Hale. She then cuts off her hair, determined to change herself.

We know that Willow has a husband, but that they are no longer together. We know that she has a daughter, but that daughter doesn't want to speak to her. We also learn that she had another daughter, and thinking about her is very painful. 

As Willow gets to know the island, and the inhabitants, the reader gets to know her. We learn snippets about her life; about her husband and her daughters. We learn that she has never had a job, and that hairdressers and fine foods were important to her. As the story moves on, Willow herself learns more and more about herself. Her encounters with the locals teach her so much, she's something of curiosity to them, yet she finds people that she can really relate to.

Short, but oh so perfectly formed. Water is a magical, joyous read, and this is despite some of the darker issues that are explored and uncovered along the way. It's a journey, for the reader, and for Willow. The sense of place, the hint of humour, the feeling of community - all combine to create a wonderful read.
Highly recommended. 

John Boyne is the author of fourteen novels for adults, six for younger readers, and a collection of
short stories. 
His 2006 novel The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas has sold more than 11 million copies worldwide and has been adapted for cinema, theatre, ballet, and opera. 
His many international bestsellers include The Heart's Invisible Furies and A Ladder to the Sky. 
He has won four Irish Book Awards, including Author of the Year in 2022, along with a host of other international literary prizes. 
His novels are published in fifty-eight languages.

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