Back in the day, back when I first started book blogging and reviewing, I used to enter a LOT of giveaways on Goodreads. (P.S. all you new bloggers, thats a good way to start getting ARCs if you’re still scared to approach publishers.) I had seen the Water Cure on Bookstagram by that point and so when I saw the giveaway going on on Goodreads, I got super excited. I entered it, but there were just so many people that had also entered that I didn’t even expect to win. Well we all know how this story ends, but fun fact: I was at a friends house when I got the email notification that I had won, and I can honestly say that I screamed and everyone was super confused and then I had to explain that I was super excited to read this book… (and then I kept putting it off and off and off because it wasn’t getting published in the US for like six more months and look at me now, posting the review two days after its publication date, but whatever.)
Let’s talk about what I thought about this crazy, harrowing, emotional tale from Sophie Mackintosh, known as the Water Cure.
“A gripping, sinister fable!”–MARGARET ATWOOD, via Twitter
LONGLISTED FOR THE 2018 MAN BOOKER PRIZE
A 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 lain the barbed wire; he has anchored the buoys in the water; he has marked out a clear message: Do not enter. Or viewed from another angle: Not safe to leave. Here women are protected from the chaos and violence of men on the mainland. The cult-like rituals and therapies they endure fortify them from the spreading toxicity of a degrading world.
But when their father, the only man they’ve ever seen, disappears, they retreat further inward until the day two men and a boy wash ashore. Over the span of one blistering hot week, a psychological cat-and-mouse game plays out. Sexual tensions and sibling rivalries flare as the sisters confront the amorphous threat the strangers represent. Can they survive 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.
This book had SO much going on. I loved the setting- an island of some sort, which three girls (Grace, Lia and Sky) have only seen one small part of. Why? Their father has placed barbed wire in the forest, and the water is off limits past a certain point. They’re told that the world outside is toxic, that men are toxic, and that they’re a new kind of woman raised far away from the toxicity and violence of men and the outside world. However, these daughters have not once seen or been to the mainland, and once three men show up, it appears that perhaps the things their parents have told them are not true. However, all throughout the book, this is extremely vague and mysterious; even now, I’m still not sure whether this was just something told to them by their parents or whether there was truth to the idea. This is made even more confusing by little blurbs written by women survivors that came to the island for help – these blurbs seem to support the things their parents had told them.
As I’m sure avid readers (and maybe even people who don’t read at all) have seen, this book has been labeled a feminist revenge fantasy, or a feminist dystopia. I see this angle when I read the book, especially with how the ending goes (don’t worry, I won’t spoil it for you). The man in their life keeps them from knowledge by not letting them read, by not letting them leave and see the world for themselves. However, I also felt like the women in this book were their own sort of villains. They seemed to be complacent up until the very end, Grace in particular. Most of all, their mother was who worried me the most. Not only was she supportive of her husband and his cultish “therapies” to teach the girls to be stronger, she almost seemed to be worse when her husband disappeared.
So yes, the Water Cure has a lot to think about, and even more when you relate it to modern day life and the toxic misogyny of our day, but there’s a lot of triggers and hard to read plot lines as well. Granted, a book of this sort is expected to have a lot of hard to discuss issues, but some of them felt to me more as if they were added for shock. Near the end of the book there is a suicidal moment, there are murders, there is problems with consent and problematic relationships and pregnancies.
Overall, I understand why this novel has received so much praise. I know that it will be talked about for years to come, and will most likely be read in later years as an example of the thinking of the feminist movement and how misogyny affected our society in the current age. But did I pick it up and read it in a day? Was it a “one-more-chapter” kind of book? No, not for me.
If you’d like to read it, you can buy a copy here (I’ll receive a small percentage with no extra cost to you). I’d really like to hear other opinions on this novel. Did you feel like it was too much, meant to shock? And if this book doesn’t sound like you, I’ll see you on my next post!