The water cure A novel

Sophie Mackintosh

Book - 2019

"An extraordinary otherworldly debut... [Mackintosh] is writing the way that Sofia Coppola would shoot the end of the world: everything is luminous, precise, slow to the point of dread." --The Guardian The Handmaid's Tale meets The Virgin Suicides in this 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 a...nchored 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.

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Subjects
Published
New York : Doubleday [2019]
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Physical Description
pages ; cm
ISBN
9780385543873
0385543875
9780525562832
0525562834
Main Author
Sophie Mackintosh (author)
Review by Booklist Reviews

Aptly named patriarch King repairs to an island with his wife and daughters to escape an unnamed cataclysm. Even though for a time they welcomed castaway women, the daughters are taught to fear strangers, especially men, who are considered toxic. This insular, hothouse environment, though meant to protect the girls, also sequesters them from being able to adjudge their parents' stringent exercises as little more than torture. When King disappears, the daughters' carefully crafted world begins to crumble, and emotions (which the exercises were meant to curb) bubble up. When three related males arrive in King's wake, the sisters, formerly bound in love-hate lockstep, find their sisterhood weakening as each female sorts out events. The slow unfurling of the truth of their lives parallels the daughters' slow awakening to the realities of the world. In Mackintosh's skilled hands, readers encounter this world as if in a fever dream and float on its characters' disparate and shifting points of view. Book clubs may enjoy discussing the dystopian and feminist themes of Mackintosh's exciting debut. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

Rigorously protected by their father, the only man they've ever seen, three sisters must deal with sexual frisson, sibling rivalry, and real fear when three men and a boy wash ashore. A debut novel from the winner of multiple story awards. Copyright 2018 Library Journal.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

DEBUT This first novel from award-winning short story writer Mackintosh is set on the edge of a postapocalyptic world. Three sisters, Grace, Lia, and Sky, live in a moldering spa hotel with their mother and a father called King. The parents have kept the young women isolated from the mainland, where environmental toxicity and gender wars have ravaged the female population; Grace's pregnancy can only be the result of incest. The hotel somehow has running water and a pool, and the girls languish in shabby luxury. Occasionally, damaged women arrive on the shore, and the mother gives them a water cure, which involves salt water purges and muslin wraps. The tension ratchets up when King fails to return from a trip to the mainland for provisions, and their insulated women's world is violated when two men and a boy wash up on the beach. VERDICT This image-laden and lyrical first novel, its short chapters interspersed with brief, disturbing messages from women from the mainland, imagines a societal breakdown that has inflicted most of its harm on women, which seems both frightening and inevitable, offering a dark, extended metaphor on toxic male/female relations. [See Prepub Alert, 7/9/18.]—Reba Leiding, emerita, James Madison Univ. Lib., Harrisonburg, VA Copyright 2018 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

Mackintosh's intense, ambitious debut, longlisted for the Man Booker, evokes a feminist dystopia where three sisters live in isolation meant to protect them from a toxic world that has become particularly dangerous for women. At an unspecified time in the future, global warming and pollution have poisoned the planet, making men more violent and women vulnerable. One couple, King and Mother, choose to raise their three daughters surrounded by sea and barbwire; their only visitors are women seeking therapies like the water cure (near-drowning to fortify against toxins and fear). Mother teaches her daughters—caustic 20-something Grace, touch-hungry teenage Lia, and their youngest, Sky—to suppress emotions, love only each other, and prepare for the worst. Then King disappears, and two men and a boy wash ashore. Mother shows her daughters how to use a pistol before she too disappears. Grace, Lia, and Sky are left to fend for themselves as the men grow impatient, proprietary, and threatening. The sisters' impressionistic narratives, presented solo and in chorus, show Lia's self-mutilation in close-up while the world disorder is described indirectly through its aftereffects. Mackintosh's gripping novel is vicious in its depiction of victimhood, vibrant when victims transform into warriors, and full of outrage at patriarchal power, environmental devastation, and the dehumanization of women. (Jan.) Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Raised on an isolated island where they are ritualistically taught to fear men, three sisters engage in a psychologically and sexually charged game of cat-and-mouse with three strangers who wash ashore during a blistering summer week. A first novel.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Raised on an isolated island where they are ritualistically taught to fear men, three sisters engage in a psychologically and sexually charged game of cat-and-mouse with three strangers who wash ashore during a blistering summer week.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

'A gripping, sinister fable!' 'margaret Atwood, via TwitterONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR:NPR ' GLAMOUR ' GOOD HOUSEKEEPING ' LIT HUB ' THRILLISTKing has tenderly staked out a territory for his wife and three daughters, Grace, Lia, and Sky. Here on his island, 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 King disappears and two men and a boy wash ashore, the sisters' safe world begins to unravel. 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 are forced to confront the amorphous threat the strangers represent.A haunting, riveting debut, The Water Cure is a fiercely poetic feminist revenge fantasy that's a startling reflection of our time.