The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh
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 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.
The Water Cure is an atmospheric, descriptive, feminist read that left me with an eerie feeling the entire time that I was reading it. You know right from the start that something sinister is happening and you slowly uncover the truth. In many ways it reminds me of Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller, which is a novel I read earlier this year and loved. They both have characters you know you can not fully trust and their motives are slowly revealed.
The Water Cure has mixed reviews, and I completely understand why. It is for a very specific type of reader. I think comparing it to The Handmaid’s Tale does the book a disservice- the only way it relates to The Handmaid’s Tale is that it is a feminist dystopian. I actually think using the word “dystopian” is a stress because the reader never truly knows what the world is actually dangerous and toxic, or if the sisters have only been led to believe that it is. There is not much world-building, which makes complete sense considering the narrators of the novel have little understanding of the world as they are very isolated from the rest of society. You see the world through their eyes and I thought that that made the story all the more interesting.
The Water Cure is also an interesting look at the bond between sisters, and in that way I understand why it is compared to The Virgin Suicides. I have come to realize that I enjoy books about siblings who love each other but keep secrets from one another.
If you have similar reading tastes to me I truly think you will enjoy The Water Cure. I also think that it is best to go in to it adjusting your expectations and realizing it is quite different from The Handmaid’s Tale. This is a book that develops very slowly and quietly reveals its sinister nature. It also has an epic ending that felt satisfying.
Thank you to Penguin Random Canada for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.