The Shifting Pools

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 31 Aug 2018

Member Reviews

I requested a review copy of this book based on its description. As the family member of a murder victim, I am especially interested in stories of survival and healing. Although competently written on a prose level, The Shifting Pools turned out to be an example of telling the reader how to feel. Sections alternate between modern London, where Eve has begun psychotherapy (not, as the author says, psychoanalysis, a mistake that threw me out of the story!), Eve’s childhood trauma, Eve’s dreams that make no more sense than any other dreams, and a “fantasy” fairy tale that lacks the internal structure, sense, and mythic elements that make such a tale work psychologically. 

Besides being confused by constantly switching from one brief scene to another, I found each thread unbelievable. I’ve already remarked on the fairy tale. Although Eve and her family are brutalized by an invading army, they read like an ordinary Western family. Given what has been happening to refugees in the past few centuries, this depiction of what is essentially white privilege, with all its wealth and resources, struck me as shallow. Certainly, wealthy people can be victims of violence, but in this case there was the opening for a deeper cultural context. 

More than that, modern Eve didn’t feel like a person grappling with buried trauma. Her journey into the dark places of her own psyche came across as superficial and trite, much too easily accomplished, without the soul-deep agony and strength of real survivors. The list of references at the end is light on psychology, relying on the outdated psychoanalytic work of Frankl and Jung but none of modern understanding of PTSD and its treatment. Medication, CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), EMDR (eye movement desensitization and reprocessing), PE (prolonged exposure) and other clinically proven methods aren’t even mentioned. The result might be poetic and overly dramatic but struck me as not at all realistic. My suggestion is to go spend some time with people who actually have survived PTSD and listen to how they talk because I didn’t believe Eve was one of them.

The usual disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book, but no one bribed me to say anything about it.
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I went into this book thinking that I would like it. I had high hopes, but I did like it. I got 150 pages in and couldn’t finish it.

I won’t hold my personal opinion against the author, because the book was well written. I just don’t think that the book is much for my taste.

And though I didn’t really care for this book, I’ would still consider giving Zoë Duncan another chance, if and when she published another book.

There was a lot of potential, but it was still lacking. The book had a nice start but lost it somewhere in the middle. The story didn’t grip me enough, and I couldn’t be fully immersed in the story.
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