Review: The Water Children by Anne Berry

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What’s It About?

In London 1976, four totally different become entwined and all have to face up to the realities of their pasts – all involving water –  if they are to cope with the present.  Catherine nearly drowned in an icy lake; Owen lost his little sister to the sea; Sean was outcast for his love of the river of his hometown in Ireland; and Naomi’s past is as much a mystery as her present is.  Through lies and deception, they all become endangered as problems and issues are passed around between them, climaxing in a dramatic ending.

My Thoughts:

I did appreciate this novel mostly being in present tense; but unless you wish to learn how to (and how not to) pull this off, I didn’t find many other reasons to read this book.

The blurb for this book (not the one above, as I write my own ‘What’s It About?’ section), implies that it is a story of three people with tragic pasts involving water who all become trapped and endangered by meeting Naomi who revels in the “sea’s cruel power”.  As you can tell from my round-up, this is not the story I was presented.  I felt I wasn’t reading what I had been promised and I realise that this has probably had an impact on my negative experience of reading this book.  Personally I found it was about two people with terrible memories of their past regarding water, and two people who find comfort and solace within water.

This novel is written from four points of view.  I agree that different viewpoints don’t always need to be given the same amount of words but, for me, I felt that this novel became very unbalanced for large sections – it would have been better to tell this particular story through an omniscient ‘narrator’ rather than through one character at a time.   For me it felt more Owen’s story for the majority; and it was his story I became interested in and felt wrong-footed when it was wrenched out from beneath me, to be replaced by another character’s point of view.  It made it difficult to completely immerse myself into the events as, just as I started to it would become disrupted by the change of view.

Anne Berry deals with some very complicated and extreme situations in ‘The Water Children’.  Unfortunately I feel that the chopping and changing of stories, past and present, made it impossible for me to empathize with any of them.  As a reader I want to become entrenched in the story and characters, to blot out real life and allow myself to follow the events and connect with the emotions as if it were happening to me.  Without this it becomes difficult to care what happens or to want to spend any time within that world; I know for me that this book took longer to read than most simply because I didn’t really give a damn about what was happening.

Despite all this negativity, I do have the reference the incredible beauty of Berry’s descriptions.  As a writer I certainly feel that there is a lot to learn from this book.  The visions painted are at times breath-taking and have a high impact, it is just a shame that the story itself doesn’t have much to offer the reader.

I wouldn’t really recommend this book to anyone other than fellow writers in need of a clear example of what works and what doesn’t within writing and storytelling.  However, if you enjoy stories told from multiple viewpoints and regarding very intense situations, then you may find you will enjoy it.

Overall rating: 1.5/5

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