The Water Cure

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 22 Jan 2019

Member Reviews

I have a hard time recommending this one. It is a bit similar to other books that follow this trope. Nothing super original.
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This book literally gave me nightmares. It is perhaps one of the best books I’ve read in terms of creating a sense of atmosphere and I was thoroughly unsettled reading it. I think the comparison to Virgin Suicides is quite perfect because both books create an incredible sense of tension and unease and both books have a dreamlike quality to the narrative and plot.

I was pretty hooked from the first page in part because the author brilliantly makes you question everything that is happening. Is the world really ending? Are the parents brainwashing their children? It it a combination of both?

For the most part, I thought it was very well written but with some flaws — it certainly had its share of overwritten sentences. I also found the message a little over-the-top, but to be fair it is a dark fantasy and Mackintosh intentionally pushes boundaries of what is believable — clearly I found it believable enough to give me nightmares. This book would make a fantastic book club selection. I’m a bit skeptical about it’s chances for the shortlist but several of this year’s selections seem odd to me.


Review posted in my blog:

https://thereadersroom.org/2018/09/03/2018-man-booker-longlist-the-water-cure/
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The writing is quite good for this book and the premise is amazing. I just didn't love the book as much as I thought I would. This book is not for everyone and it takes a while to digest the beautifully constructed sentences crafted in this book. Ultimately, it is a read unlike any I've read that is very gender blendy and so it deserves to be experienced, savored and for you to come up with your own conclusions about women, feminism, agency, not all men, cults, nurture and so many other themes.
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This book was gorgeously and beautifully written. The writing style was honestly dream-like. This book keeps you guessing and you will feel like you are missing all the information you need in order for it to make sense until later...but honestly, that is one of the things I loved about it! For a deep, thought provoking read...definitely try this one out!
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If you liked Madeline Miller's CIRCE, you simply have to read this book! I loved it! This book was very different than expected but in the best of ways. I definitely haven't encountered a book like this before.
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While I enjoyed this I was not blown away by it.  I have read other similar type books that kept me interested a little more than this one.  It was still a good read and am glad I had the chance to read it.
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I have been trying to put together my thoughts on this one for days now. I think that is a testament to the ethereal nature of the prose and plot. The entire time I was reading this one I felt like I was holding a handful of sand; the plot and prose kept slipping through my fingers. That may not sound desirable, but in this case it was hypnotizing. I felt my reading pace slow down to allow the words to soak in. Whoever compared this novel to The Virgin Suicides was spot on. I would say it's a cross between The Virgin Suicides and The Girls.

The story takes place on an isolated island where a group of sisters, Grace, Lia, and Sky have been raised to fear the outside world and men. Their minds are filled with stories of chaos and violence committed by men on the mainland. These stories are further cemented by the women who come to seek refuge from the men on the mainland and healing from their mother and father, King. King is the only man that they have ever encountered so when he disappears and three strange men arrive on the island, all of their world views are challenged.

I don't want to give too much of the story away because the way it unfolds in the novel is fantastic. It was simultaneously languid and feverish. I don't think I have words to do this novel justice, but I do know that I will continue to think about this one as time goes on.
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The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh has been advertised as a feminist dystopia. For me, unfortunately, it fell flat. From the get go it felt a lot less empowered feminist and a lot more culty-misanthrope to me. I get where the author was trying to go, I really do. But it was done in a way that totally sidelined the point. Ultimately it ended up feeling more like a failed teenage romance and a story about the dangers of misinformation.

It left me with some questions. Why are the girls not more apprehensive when the men arrive if they've been taught to hate men their entire lives? Mind control isn't as easily undone as new found sexual urges. The story feels kind of rushed for this reason. It's feels as if, just because there are boys, there HAS to be attraction between a pair of characters. It feels exactly like the type of feminism that I do not support, which I guess may be the point of a feminist dystopia? The villainization of men, and a stereotype of "damaged women"...no thank you. But if that's the point of the whole book, there isn't much direction to the resolution of the issues set forth by the author. Finally, the world building was sparse and i found myself unable to envision parts of the story or how the setting was laid out. The ending was predictable, if not the most interesting part of the book. I think if written from Grace's perspective instead of Lia's it would have been much more entertaining. With so little information about the girl's way of life, and the reasons behind it, commentary from grace or the mother would have added so much to the story. The writing was beautiful which is why it gets three stars.
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This book is difficult to describe. The basic plot is that a husband and wife and their three daughters isolate themselves form the rest of the world on an island, with the purpose of ridding themselves of the violence of the rest of the world. They partake in ritualistic cleansing, mostly the three daughters; Lia, Grace and Sky. One day King, the father figure, leaves the island for supplies and never returns. Shortly after his disappearance three strange men arrive on the island. The majority of the plot takes place over the course of the week that these strange men on the island.
My favorite thing about this book was the writing. The writing was beautiful. The overall tone had a calm and sort of fluid quality. The writing style mimicked the flow and feeling of water, in a way that reflected the importance of water in the plot.
I wasn't a huge fan of what the plot was trying to do. I enjoyed the underlying feminist message that it was trying to convey, but the central theme got a bit muddled at some point. I was unclear about what the author was trying to tell us when it came to the parts about the sisters and their interactions with the strange men. At some point the author reveals something about one of the characters that is pretty easy to deduce from the beginning of the book. She reveals this fact about 3/4 into the book, even though it was pretty obvious from the beginning.
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This one just didn't work for me.  I thought the abuse was very gratuitous.  The writing itself was beautiful and dreamlike, but the story lacked substance and didn't really have a plot.   I know it's been marketed as feminist dystopia, (and I usually love that genre) but I did not think this one fit that description.
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A strange beginning turned into an even stranger, unputdownable tale of isolation, lies, and betrayal.  Did not expect the direction it went and loved it.
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I enjoyed this book, but I can see it's not a book for everyone. If you really need a book to completely explain what's going on, give you background, fill in blanks for you, then this isn't a book for you. If you're cool with atmospheric, dropped hints, wait, what? moments, read on! This book doesn't make things easy- you kinda know what's happening, a family, father, mother, and three daughters, on an island living in an abandoned hotel because something went down in the outside world, not sure what. After the father disappears, three men show up, and the women's world starts to unravel. It's a trippy, weird book, told by unreliable narrators, about a bunch of trippy weirdness. It's a book you need to be in the mood for. It drags a tad in the middle, not too badly though. Read this when's you're feeling like having your mind messed with.
#TheWaterCure #NetGalley
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I was sucked into this book almost as soon as I read the first words:
"Once we have a father, but our father dies without us noticing. It's wrong to say that we don't notice. We are just absorbed in ourselves, that afternoon when he dies. Unseasonable heat. We squabble, as usual. Mother comes out on terrace and puts a stop to it by raising her hand, a swift motion against the sky. Then we spend some time lying down with lengths of muslin over our faces, trying not to scream, and so he dies with none of us women bearing witness, none of us accompanying him."
I had the feeling I was about to read a dystopian novel rooted in feminism. The world of these women is filled with toxic men, both literally and figuratively.
"There is a fluidity to this movements, despite his size, that tells me he has never had to justify his existence, has never had to fold himself into a hidden thing, and I wonder what that must be like, to know that your body is irreproachable."
I was loving the writing and MacIntosh's constantly changed point of view. The island the women lived on became vivid, the relationships between them fascinating. There's a sense of mystery and tension to The Water Cure that pulls readers through it. I wanted to find out why these people had isolated themselves, why King had developed the tests and cures he and Mother used to prepare the girls in case they are ever faced with the real world again, and how that would all play out when it happened. I was feeling a The Handmaid's Tale vibe and I was excited to see how MacInstosh would play it out.

As I read on, it began to appear that things might not be exactly as they first appeared. Has thereto world actually become too toxic for women or have King and Mother founded a cult? Why do these men wash up on shore, insisting that help is coming, never get saved? Despite all of their training, is it impossible for women to resist the lure of men? I had so many questions.

What I felt like I got in the end was the story of a family, the bond of sisters, who just happen to be leading a life equal parts impending peril and complete boredom. Things go in a direction I was not expecting and I never got answers to many of my questions. Men, as it turns out though, are every bit as terrible as the girls have been led to believe.

I didn't get exactly what I was expecting, or what I wanted, out of The Water Cure but it is an impressive debut with a lot to consider and is a book that I imagine I'll be thinking about for a while.
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This book was equal parts beautiful and severely f**ked up. I really liked the concept as a story, but I do always worry about putting stories out in the world like this for fear that some dumb person will think it's a good idea. That all being said -- this book was definitely one of the top books I have read this year!
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Grace, Lia, and Sky are sheltered from the horrors of the outside world. They’ve been brought up to believe that beyond the borders of their home there is nothing but violence: men against women, disease against bodies. Kept behind borders made of barbed wire and buoys, the girls are taught ways to purify their blood and their bodies — how to survive the toxicity of the world outside their home. Because as much as their mother and father try and keep them safe, women from the outside world still come to them for help, bringing with them disease and danger.

When their father disappears, the girls and their mother lose their connection to the outside world. Physically and mentally, they retreat inside themselves. After all, they’ve been taught that emotion is a weakness. They must be strong if they’re going to survive.

Their ability to survive is challenged when two men and a boy wash onto their shore. The dangers that their father had worked so hard to keep them from have finally found them. But each woman reacts differently, exploring how basic instincts and needs conflict with nurtured responses.

Beyond the exploration of “nature versus nurture” The Water Cure is a lyrical and haunting look at the effects of literal toxic masculinity. Mackintosh calls out our complacency with psychological and physical abuse, showing how the girls are taught from an early age that in the old world — our actual reality — men are violent to women because it’s in their nature to be. Women get sick from the toxins in the air because they are weaker. These aren’t new ideas, especially for feminist dystopian novels. What sets The Water Cure apart from the likes of The Handmaid’s Tale, for instance, is that Mackintosh didn’t need to reshape the world. She let the world shape the way the girls were raised. While speculative in nature, The Water Cure is closer to reality than the most popular dystopian novels of the past decade.

Part climate fiction, part feminist dystopian, The Water Cure is a must-read for 2019 and a beautiful, horrific addition to the conversation surrounding feminism, equality, and domestic abuse.
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The Writing and Worldbuilding 

I loved the writing and the story. It felt like The Handmaid's Tale merged with an adult version of Delirium and it utterly captivated me. I read it all in one sitting, barely able to put it down. The imagery and atmosphere was excellent. I liked the vagueness of the world beyond--whether this is set in some dystopic future or modern day in the quiet places of the world. It really added to the ambiguous atmosphere.

I was not a huge fan of the random interludes from random women. They were sometimes pretty good and were not altogether bad, but often distracted from the plot.

I have, however, some mixed feelings about the themes. As a whole, I loved this. I would have given it 5 stars if not for what I consider its fatal flaw: I don't like this particular brand of feminism, and think that it's ultimate and final message might be damaging rather than helpful.

To avoid spoilers, I will only speak in vague terms, but there is in general a great lack of nuance regarding the place of men in this story. As this is written, all men are evil, opportunistic brutes. Even those who are not so bad are worthless, despicable monsters in their own way. And yet so are the women in this. But they are shown to have some redeeming qualities, which the men are not quite allowed. To me, this is problematic. Yes, women suffer at the hand of men, and often other women, but that doesn't mean it is evil to be male, no more than it is evil to be female.

Once it was clear, as the story started winding down, that this was the message I was to take from it all, I felt ill and angry. I finished it not to see how it all ends, but simply to be done with it. I hate this kind of feminism. It ruins the progress women have made, in my opinion. I suppose I should have known when it was advertised as a "feminist revenge fantasy" but I thought, based on the majority of the story, that it would be more than that. Unfortunately, I was wrong. The rest of the feminist themes were fantastic and I loved them. It was only that men-hating part that bothered me.

The Characters 

Lia: She was my favorite character, by far. Most of the book is in her perspective, as she falls in love and lust with Llew. Her strangeness and familiar aspects were so well done and intriguing. I really loved reading about her.

Grace: She was good at first, but she kind of ruined things at the end with her sanctimoniousness.

Llew: He was fascinating and I really liked him as a character. His son Gwil was mostly background, but I did like him enough.

Sky: There really wasn't much to this third sister, as she didn't get a perspective of her own and kinda just hovered through the story, not doing much, but she did act as a good balance between the other two sisters.

James: I liked him. Kind of gave me Uncle Iroh vibes, so the way things ended with him made me kinda mad tbh

Mother: She was also fascinating, and I loved and hated her. Such an interesting character.

King: We never actually got to see him, but I did like the way he was written through other's eyes, and how my opinion of him changes as the story goes on and I learn more about him (or have my suspicions confirmed, as the case may be)

Conclusion 

I liked it, and my heart says 4 stars, but the bitterness it made me feel deserves a 3 stars.
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Sorry, this one just wasn't for me. I got about 20% of the way through and just couldn't bear to read any more. This is one of those books that I know is probably really good and will win all sorts of awards, but I just can't get into it. Maybe I'm not smart enough, or not smart in the right way? I don't know. All I know is that this one didn't click for me.
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An interesting premise, with absolutely no one to root for. I realize they grew up in this world but I was frustrated that nobody killed off the mom earlier in the book because she made me want to scream.
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Thank you for the early copy!

This was an interesting read with a unique plot. I recommend this to fans of The Handmaid's Tale.
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This book sounded very intriguing to me, as I really enjoy dystopian fiction and loved The Handmaids Tale (which this has been compared to). While really enjoyed this book, the one thing I struggled with was not knowing what the world outside their compound was like! Was it really an awful place, or were the adults just claiming that? Who really were the other women who would show up that had to be cured? I wanted so many other answers! Overall though, a good and fast read for me. But truly unlike anything I had read in a while.  It is a very unique book and not one I feel that the general reader would enjoy, so even though I did like it I would not necessarily recommend it unless I knew the readers’ preference.
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