Author: G. S. Johnston
Published: Jan 2012
Genre: Historical Fiction
My Rating: 3/5
When Zeno follows wealthy Catherine Steiner one evening his whole world changes. After following her to Budapest, they embark on a love affair which escalates beyond what either of them imagined. The struggle they have only becomes more dangerous when the Nazis come to Hungary and they have to face a country of people whose views have changed. Friends become enemies with anti-Semitism, and no one can be trusted.
At its heart, this is a love story, though definitely not easy-reading or relaxing. Reading this brought my attention to many little details that are often forgotten when we view large events such as WWII, breaking it down into individual lives and the struggles against changing perceptions. I don’t have any knowledge of Hungary which I felt did diminish the story for me a little as a lot of it felt like the author expects the reader to recognize the places. This is unfortunate as this particular story is tied very strongly to the country and the characters’ attachment to it which simply wasn’t shown as much as, I feel, it could have been.
While there is the backdrop of WWII, the majority of the story happens before major political changes suddenly happen. For me this was very important, as while WWII interests me, that isn’t why I chose to read this book. Honestly I wasn’t sure what I was expecting other than a detailed vision of a character or two which was definitely provided.
My main issue with this novel is the languid pace of the story-telling itself. I can see how this style complements this particular story; however I often found myself not wanting to return to the book due to its slowness and lack of excitement. I feel it would have benefited from including a few sections where the speed of the story picks up a little, as, while it is definitely a bonus to take time reading a book, I feel The Skin of Water took it to an extreme that most people will struggle with.
In particular I loved how the main character, Zeno, sees the world through filming it and how this clearly came across in the story. For me, it added interest and allows the reader to see certain scenes as he sees it when watching back over his edited films. In a way this means that the most important scenes are ‘seen’ twice by the reader which allows us to really get to know Zeno from seeing his creative reaction to what is happening to him.
This isn’t a book for those looking for a quick read or a happily-ever-after romance. I think that people who love to explore characters and countries would likely enjoy reading The Skin of Water, as well as those who really want to slow down and experience another time and place.
[Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.]