The Water Cure

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 22 Jan 2019

Member Reviews

This dystopic fiction is Sophie Mackintosh's debut novel and was long listed for the 2018 Man Booker prize. It is one of those novels that if you haven't read anything of the synopsis, the initial set-up of the story might be a little confusing. The Water Cure is narrated by the three sisters and is reported in alternating perspectives, with the switchovers happening very quickly - within a page or two. Other than that, there are sections narrated by a united trio to show the of universality of their experiences, the borderline abuse endured by their parents, the fears that don't dissipate with age and their complex reactions to the stories they have been told about why they inhabit this world and what the outside looks like. As a literary metaphor, The Water Cure touches on the dangers of New Age treatments and the need to regulate health care but also discusses feminist issues by exploring how risk and ruin can lurk inside what looks like a safe haven.
I enjoyed aspects of the storytelling, especially the way the author sets up the binary gender differences as the cause and effect of the suffering being detailed in the book, with men as perpetrators and women as victims and later how she challenges her own idea in showing how their experiences varied with their ages. I liked how the characters' names reflected their interaction with each other but even that didn't carry through for all the cast.
However, while this had a good plot, I wasn't a fan of the storytelling. There were parts of the narrative that felt wordy and in Part 1, the sisters voices didn't feel sufficiently unique to distinguish between their stories. I appreciated the imagery and I was very much anticipating whether Makintosh would present a trans-gender or androgynous character and what that would look like.
I gave this a 3 star rating because:
I liked the different responses to water from within and exposure to alternate sources, and how one was encouraged and the other banned.
I enjoyed the character's names and how they both embodied and rejected those meanings
I admired the premise that parental sacrifices are not always understood or even accepted by their children and if this was the metaphor behind this unlikely story, then it was an interesting way to present this age-old rebellion in a new way, and give an alternate view of how life lessons often feel like torture.
I didn't really care for how disposable some of the characters felt and I searched for what their ambiguous disappearances meant and couldn't find the greater meaning.
If dangerous love was the overall theme of the story, then it wasn't my favorite thing to read about.
Aspects of this book reminded me Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi as well as The Roanoke Girls.
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Tw: animal abuse, child abuse, self harm, murder, child death 

This has go to be one of the weirdest and most out there books I've ever read. Honestly, I have no idea what in the world I read and I probably still won't know long after. Was it about a cult? Was it just a family trying to survive by any means necessary? I can't tell you because I do not know. 

The prose on this book was probably some of the best prose I've ever read. It was beautiful and so very haunting. Every single sentence was crafted meticulously. Each word was thought about very carefully and considered for the sentence. I can tell that there was a lot of work put into just the crafting of the sentences and I loved that. 

But the prose got in the way of the story at times. Because the writing was so flowery, I was often confused about what was happening. Maybe that was the purpose? To be super mysterious? I don't know. But I wish it had gotten straight to the point at times when it was needed. Especially with some of the reveals at the end. I just wanted to know what happened. 

Overall, this is just one of those books you got to read for yourself. I know that this is a super short review but I can't really say much about this book without giving it all away. This is really all I can tell you. Despite my average rating, I can't wait to see what else Sophie Mackintosh writes next.
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This is the author's debut novel and she did a wonderful job.  With a predominant theme of patriarchy, it was refreshing to read about three sisters who find their freedom in life.
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I was intrigued by the concept of this book. Instantly, I noticed a flowy like writing style. Which does take a little getting used to but I have read several books like this and so I was able to "go with the flow" pun intended. 

In the beginning, I was intrigued by the set up of this book. However, my peaked interest dissipated fairly quickly as the writing style this time did not help but kind of hindered my reading. Additionally, I found myself struggling to keep the three sisters apart. Everyone's voice was monotone and blended together as one. After painfully getting about twenty percent of the way into the book, I was done. I felt no need to continue reading.
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This was a really different story. Three sisters are living with their mother and father. None of the girls have ever experienced the outside world, having grown up in their "commune" for lack of a better word. 

Everything comes crashing down when their father doesn't return from a supply run. Now having to survive themselves, the girls and their mother carry on as best they can. Then one day strange men arrive, supposedly sent by their father. 

What follows is a look into each girl's life. How they think, what they feel and how the circumstances in which they were raised has effected them. It's an overall interesting story, but it really didn't move at a pace that kept me interested. Some sections felt drawn out, while others needed some expansion on what was happening.
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Basically a really strange read that’s not a good fit for my library's patrons. It has very abstract writing, with no clear plot. Our library's patrons like solid plot. The novel didn't have very strong development of the charaacters either.  I really didn't care for them one way or another. 

I don't see myself recommending this book at all to our patrons.
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My apologies to the publisher for a late review. I was gifted an ARC of The Water Cure in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Labeled as a female dystopian novel, I was excited to receive an early copy of this book. Unfortunately, it took me weeks to pick this novel up once I put it down. The story was bleak, disjointed and disturbing. Three sisters live on an isolated island where they are taught men are evil. Of course, when men finally breach their island they discover what they thought they understood is all wrong. Honestly, I’m not sure the point of this story. It seemed very similar to another story I read earlier this year and equally did not enjoy. I never got the sense that this was an alternate world or experienced any feelings of a dystopian future. 

Thank you NetGalley for providing me with a review copy, but this story fell very short for me.
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Reading this book felt sticky and warm, totally atmospheric. I will forever be obsessed with the cover art. I need it on my nightstand for always. The story itself is uncomfortable and confusing, as you only know as much as the characters. It could be compared to "stuck on an island" stories, or not to distant future "it only gets worse for women" type books but it truly feels like a weird, depressing myth, fitting of this generation. If melancholy sister tales are your bag then this one is for you.
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I appreciate the opportunity to review this book. Unfortunately, I have been trying to read this book for over a week and I just can't get into it.
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The writing in this book, and the way the author is able to describe the somewhat strange setting, is stellar. In the Man Booker Prize longlist wasteland that is 2018, I found it one of the more compelling reads. I love the little backstory italic parts between chapters, the ending and questioning everything, and the sisters. I felt like the story itself, what actually happens, to be less satisfying.

The italics backstory is where the story connects most with other recent books from The Power by Naomii Alderman to Red Clocks by Leni Zumas. Here is one passage in particular:

    "I didn't understand how rapidly things had changed, how all that had been needed was permission for everything to go to shit, and that permission had been granted. I didn't know that there was no longer any need for the men to hold their bodies in check or to carry on the lie that we mattered."

These sections make the reader think they know what the book is. But is that what it is?

I have no idea how to classify it now that I've reached the end. [Is this dystopia on a grand scale or more like Room is for the two in it? Are there actual environmental toxins going on or are the daughters being poisoned? Is the third sister really not related or was that a convenient story to tell for King to get what he wanted? Who were the women who used to be with them, and why aren't there any more? (hide spoiler)]

I have to admit, I kind of liked mulling over these questions, maybe the best part of my reading experience. That coupled with the writing made it more of a solid read for me.
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The Water Cure is one of the most interesting books that I’ve read in awhile. It’s a bit like a combination of Lord of the Flies and The Virgin Suicides with a hint of King Lear.

Three sisters, Grace, Lia and Sky, are raised on an isolated island by their parents, King and Mother. They are taught that the outside world is a dangerous place for females because men are a threat.

They are taught to do bizarre rituals – like wearing weighted clothes in the water and drinking sea water. I guess it’s to help them survive if they ever leave the island. They used to get female visitors who were escaping the outside world. The women had to do the survival rituals. It was supposed to make them all stronger.

Their father disappears almost without a trace. Three men arrive on the island. Soon after their mother disappears.

After the men appear, there is a lot of tension between the sisters. Lia falls in love with one of the men. Grace and Sky believe that the men are dangerous and should not be trusted.

If I say anything else, I’ll give away the ending. It’s a really great novel and you should read it. I’d give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.



The Water Cure on Amazon


I received an ebook from NetGalley in exchange for doing a review. All opinions are mine. Obviously.
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I’m continuing on my @manbookerprize long-list journey and finished #TheWaterCure by Sophie Mackintosh last night. Not sure that timing was a wise decision on my part, as the ending left my mind reeling (and hello nightmares!)

This was a unique read for me - it is very literary and a bit abstract, but this works really well to support the bizarre narrative!

We follow three women living with their Mother on an island, and are told that any contact with men other than their father, King, is toxic and harmful to them. The women are compelled to undergo a number of treatments to help rid their body of toxins from their time in society prior to living on the island, including the title treatment which alleges to ‘cure’ women of the condition. It’s like a cult narrative, a dystopian/apocalyptic narrative and a commentary on gender violence without ever exclusively being any of these things!

The alternating perspectives worked incredibly well here, and the plot was cryptic and crazy enough to keep me furiously turning the pages, despite not always having a clear picture as to what was happening.

My only criticism of the novel is that even at the end, there was so much about the narrative that was left unanswered. I think a bit more detail would have gone a long way to closing out some questions the reader had (despite the flurry of plot-bombs that Mackintosh drops in the final part of this novel! 🤯). I think this could have been done while still leaving substantial intrigue and suspense for the reader to ponder.

This was a really readable literary fiction and I hope to see it make the Man Booker shortlist! 🤞🏻

Thanks to @netgalley and @doubledaybooks for my ARC in exchange for an honest review. And special shout out to @womanvsbooks for chatting with me about this as I read it 😊
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“The Water Cure,” by Sophie Mackintosh, is a dystopian fiction novel described as: “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.”
While I enjoyed the author’s style of writing, I had a hard time getting into this the story.
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I was provided a copy of this book by NetGalley and Doubleday books in exchange for an honest review.

I read prior reviews for The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh and was looking forward to this novel, but was greatly disappointed by it. The story begins with King, his wife and three daughters in a place of their own, which is kept apart from the rest of the world, which has become a toxic place. He keeps his family safe and teaches his daughters to stay away from men, for the are evil and will do things to women.  His eldest daughter manages to get pregnant with no men around...except her father. 

The book discusses how their property used to be a retreat for women who would come for the water cure, which would purify them.  They eventually stopped offering this as their food supplies grew less and they became more insular.

Eventually some men found their way to the island and the girls aren't quite sure what to make of them. The book continues on its strange path, The book left me cold, felling like I had just wasted all the time I spent reading it. I got nothing out of it, didn't enjoy it and had to force myself to finish it.
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I liked this book a lot more than I expected to! The twisted, insulated world left behind by the King for these four women to perpetuate is chilling.
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This was weird and strange and thought provoking and infuriating and beautifully written all at the same time.
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I don’t know, man.  I’m not sure what to say.  This was an effed up story.  Super ridiculously disturbing, and also hard to put down.  Atmospherically it was perfect, and the author kept the consistency of the “innocence” of her three primary characters the whole way through.  I loved how little details were just dropped in which shook what you thought you knew about what was happening.

It is interesting to look at this book in contrast to Naomi Alderman’s The Power.  Two completely different points of view on women dealing with theirs.

I didn’t have a lot of interest in reading this, I thought I’d read enough of this type of book, but I have to say I found this a fresh perspective.
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The Water Cure is a dystopian novel set on a deserted island where Grace, Lia, and Sky have live with their parents, King and Mother. King and Mother built their utopia away from toxins, abusive men, and corrupt society. 

The girls have never been exposed to men (other than their father) but have been exposed to a number of women would seek refuge on the island. These women would come to them as weary broken souls, damaged, and abused by men, their chance to escape the mainland and their circumstance. Like the girls, the women participate in ritualistic “cures” designed to cleanse and strengthen their bodies. The cures include everything from being sewn up in sacks and sitting in a hot sauna until dehydration over takes them, to screaming into muslin, to holding their breath underwater. The ultimate cure involves the consumption of gallons of salt water, but only when the body is ready and worthy. Eventually the women stop coming, although we never quite figure out why.

The novel unfold in three parts with three different narrators. In Part One, King dies and the girls, all three in narration as a collective unit, are left alone with their mother. They grapple with feelings of his death, how they will protect themselves, and survive in this world without the only man they’ve ever known. They are left with only Mother, who periodically drugs them and continues their ritualistic customs (torture) designed to test their devotion, proving love for the sisters outweighs everything else. 

At the end of Part One, two men and a boy wash up on shore. Part Two, is narrated by Lia, solely. Lia is the outcast, the lost, unloved, middle child. We learn of Lia’s fears and insecurities, but also of her strengths. In Part Two, the women learn to deal with and live around the men. Their reactions to the men vary from interest, hope, boredom, and total ignoring. Their lives continue even as they orbit the men, or perhaps the men orbit them. Finally, in Part Three, Grace, the eldest, becomes the narrator and begins to piece together different facets of the story. We learn more about King and Mother, the rituals, the women, the cures. It’s short lived, but Grace, who watches and sees everything, gets her time to tell her story. The novel ends with the collective voice of the sisters as the story comes to resolution.  

I enjoyed the writing in the novel. The way the author describes the beach, their crumbling paradise home, the languish of boredom on a hot summer day is beautiful. The concept was interesting and I found myself wanting to know what happened next. However, it felt incomplete. There are references to the Women who come seeking asylum, the chapters open with stories from those women, yet it felt like an open story line. I kept trying to place the symbols the girls would call attention to, the ghosts, the boundary, the bird, but never could quite figure out what they meant. And the world, what really is the world like? I finished the book feeling incomplete and somewhat lost. I wished the plot has been more fully developed.
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3 Stars
Review by Heather
Late Night Reviewer
Up All Night w/ Books Blog

The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh is touted as “hypnotic and compulsive.” “…a fever dream, blazing vision of suffering, sisterhood, and transformation.” I wish it had lived up to that dramatic description. Ms. Mackintosh is a descriptive writer, but I found the switching of voices to be confusing; all three sisters in one chapter, Grace, then Lia, then all three again, but we never hear directly from Sky. The ambiguousness of the “danger” to women to be distracting and no clear reason given for why the girls’ family felt the need to leave society and create their haven. The Water Cure reads like it wants to be a feminist manifesto, but comes across as misogynistic. 

Few of the characters in this book are very likeable from the girls’ cruel parents whose “cures” are really forms of torture; the girls themselves who at the first opportunity taunt and torture a small boy who happens upon the island with his father. And the two men who appeared on the beach with the boy who are selfish and self-serving.

I will say The Water Cure is thought-provoking and an interesting take on an alternative world where women feel so threatened by men they voluntarily segregate themselves. I just wish the author hadn’t left quite so much to the imagination as to why. 

**ARC provided for an honest review**
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I grow very weary of these Margaret Atwood-esque “feminism” novels that focus on men and their violence against women. This is a story about men with significant power (and a man called “King” nonetheless!) physically and emotionally abusing helpless women for the majority of the time. It’s an indictment on men (which I don’t necessarily disagree with) but that doesn’t automatically make it feminist, does it?

Obviously, this is not a pleasurable read. These women are routinely subjected to needless violence, and it never really makes sense why. That the violence is intended to make the women stronger is the argument of the perpetrators, and it clearly doesn’t, which makes the book feel stagnant. What are the women getting out of this abusive “training”? Nothing, and so is the reader. 

One of the main characters ceaselessly pines for an abusive man, and this just drags on for so long that it became painful to read. Her desperation is the result of her emotional trauma, and I get it, but it was so pathetic and annoying that I stopped caring for her character. Was this behavior realistic? Sure. Enjoyable to read? Absolutely not.

Something that I want to explicitly mention (because the book does not) is the danger of women who will collaborate with men to continue the oppression of other women, whether in an attempt to save themselves or to gain favor with men. We see this with Mother—King schemes up this cruel “water cure” system but Mother, going along with it, ultimately takes the blame. Because the cast of this novel is so small and the story takes place in essentially one house, this is presented more as a fault of Mother’s rather than a criticism of the women who conspire to subdue women if it earns them “power.” (Funny how the women of the Trump administration just randomly sprang into my mind here completely unbidden!)

I liked Mackintosh’s writing a lot, honestly, and the way she described the mansion and island was lush and evocative. The story wasn’t fleshed out enough for me, though it did keep my attention. I sped through the novel, interested to see how everything played out. The ending was a let down, because it concluded sort of lazily and in ways that I expected.

This is billed as a “feminist revenge fantasy” which makes me feel a bit iffy because “feminist” and “revenge” are sort of antonyms to me. But I guess that’s only how I personally view feminism.
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