I am back on my Man Booker 2018 reading challenge!
My aim is to read as many books as I can until the shortlist arrives, which is mid September, then I’ll probably continue on reading the shortlist. (sorry!)
It’s a weird selection of books this year, I can’t say I am a fan of judges selections this time. I was very surprised that books such as Mermaid and Mrs Hancock, Whistle in the Dark or Bitter Orange didn’t make it to the list.
Well, I am not a judge; so I will now keep my mouth shut and will tell you what I’ve read like a good reader.
Water Cure : An Eerie-tale gone wrong
Mackintosh’s The Water Cure had an amazing and promising start. I was absorbed by the atmosphere, the unknown, seemingly cruel world that’s suppressing the girls. The dreamy story telling was a joy.
Told from viewpoints of 3 sisters, but mostly the middle sister Lia, The Water Cure is could be classified as a dystopian novel.
The father, king, the mother and 3 daughters, Grace, Lia and Sky live on an isolated island, away from the world. The father called King ringed a Shakespearean bell to me, King Lear and her daughters of course. The time and place are vague, days bleed into each other say the girls. In the beginning of the novel the girls speak as if they are animals, instinctively talking shared pack of mixed feelings, thoughts and emotions.
The King performs water cure on the girls, very cruel methods to cure them from the poisons of womanhood and the outside world. It’s in a way very Adam and Eve-ish, although when you think in some countries it’s a tradition to slap girls when they bleed for the first time, so the belief is they will be obeying to their husbands to be good wives, it’s not completely unrealistic to imagine the water cure rituals being performed, again and again in the book. There is no talk of religion in the story, but King and Mother does sound like religious fanatics. Also the talk of LOVE in the book is rather disturbing when it comes up:
“Love only your sisters!” All right, we decide, that is easy enough for us to do. “And your mother” she adds. “You have to love me too, it’s my right”
There is a crooked sense of love in this family, but I really loved Mackintosh’s imagination. They fill their mouths with muslin clothes to clean up, same muslin we cover and wipe our babies. They are held under the water to get clean. Water, the sea is the mother in most cultures, so it heals, surrounds.
But then the book started to get confusing for me. There are ‘damaged’ women. They fell from windows, wash up on shores. And there are men arriving. There is a little love story which I couldn’t fir to the book’s premise. I didn’t get why Mackintosh suddenly decided to leave the other 2 girls and focus on Lia. Sky, the third girl is just an accessory. Mother disappears at one point and send confusing messages. Is she the victim, or a villain? I never understood. The ending aimed to explain some of the things, but I think it shouldn’t have. The vague and the blur story telling kept me happy in the start and I wish the dreaminess, the haziness in the book wasn’t disturbed by the action packed ending with an unnecessary ‘twist’. The story really didn’t need it.
Washington Black: When quality of the writing isn’t enough
I have not much to say about Esi Edugyan’s Washington Black, as I haven’t finished it but stopped reading altogether around 15% of the book.
The quality of the writing is faultless, but found forcing myself to move forward with the story. Washington Black is 18 years old, he was a slave but he is free now. Unfortunately I didn’t get attached to the story and didn’t feel curious to learn how he made his way to freedom. It wasn’t offering anything I haven’t read before, and sadly, couldn’t escape being boring. Sorry! Not every book works for everyone … Gorgeous cover though, really loved the appearance of the book.
Next up on Man Booker list: Milkman
Thanks for Netgalley and the publisher for a copies of the books in exchange for an honest review.