“The Water Cure” by Sophie Mackintosh – abandoned after 25% – too worthy for me. I don’t want my reading to be a chore.


I picked “The Water Cure” as one of four books to read from the 2018 Man Booker Longlist.  I liked the speculative fiction premise of young women, raised in isolation in a post-apocalyptic world, encountering men for the first time and having to reconsider what they think they know.
“The Water Cure” got off to a slow and difficult start but was intriguing enough to keep me interested. I liked the rapid succession of short chapters, written from the point of view of each of the three sisters. This worked well in the audiobook version I read, where each sister get’s her own narrator.
The we-only-know-this-island innocence of the sisters means that they take their exotic situation for granted and do little to explain it to the reader.
It soon became clear that with was not going to be your typical post-apocalyptic dystopian novel. I was reminded more of  “The Tempest” if Miranda hag had two sisters.
After the ten per cent mark, I started to get bored and a little angry. I got bored because, although many short chapters shot by, NOTHING HAPPENED in any of them except the young women sharing the details of the strange rituals (called therapies) that dominate their lives. I became angered by the abuse these young women had suffered.

I get the need to pace the book so that I can  FEEL the stifling effects on the sisters of isolation and ignorance combined with forced ritual intimacy, but enough already.

I began to feel as if I were  trapped in the middle of a front row at “Waiting For Godot” and I’m so embarrassed by what other people will think of me that I stay in my seat long after my boredom threatens to be terminal and I suspect Beckett of being a sadist with a wicked sense of humour.

I made it as far as the twenty-five percent mark because the voices of the sisters were  strong and distinct and because I could no more look away from the spectacle of the Bennet sisters transported to an island where they are subjected to abuse that they’ve educated to understand as sympathetic magic, than I could look away from a building about to be demolished by well-placed charges.

I’d hoped that the arrival of the men would change the pace but it didn’t and I finally admitted to myself that I was reading this book because it was “worthy” rather than because I was getting anything out of it. I’d promised myself I wouldn’t do that anymore so I abandoned “The Water Cure” at twenty-five per cent mark.

It may win the Mann  Booker prize but it didn’t make a place for itself in my imagination.

Click on the SoundCloud link below to hear a sample of the book.






One thought on ““The Water Cure” by Sophie Mackintosh – abandoned after 25% – too worthy for me. I don’t want my reading to be a chore.

  1. Now this is one that I wish you had continued with, Mike, as I think you might have appreciated how it all turned out. I understand all that you said about it and why you felt the way you did, but for me, it was absolutely fascinating, like an eerie fairy tale. I was pleased to see that it made the Man Booker Prize list. Quite a different type of read and that’s always a plus for me. Sorry it didn’t work out for you. Happier reading ahead!

    Liked by 1 person

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