The Water Cure: Dystopian feminism

The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh is a feminist fantasy novel set in a dystopian world where women can get ill from the atmosphere. Mackintosh describes a unique world with interesting characters and a twisting plot. The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh will be published on 24 May 2018 by Penguin UK.

The Story
The Water Cure focuses on the lives of three sisters who are all teenagers or young adults, with the oldest reaching 30. Lia is the main narrative voice, with Grace and Sky having smaller narrative roles. They have lived on a protected island their entire lives, behind a veil which keeps them from harm and disease. Women come to their mum and dad, King who help them by making them undergo gruelling treatments, including the water cure. When three men show up on the island, the sisters start to question all that they know and things get turned upside down.

What I liked
Honestly, this book is quite strange, but I enjoyed its unique quality and the way that Lia talks throughout the novel. She is a strong narrator who is conflicted and spends much of the novel questioning things that have happened and things that are happening. She does not apologise or make excuses for how she feels, nor does she blame anybody else. She is a strong lead character who carries her sisters and the other characters in the book along with her. Another character I liked was their mother. She is under a spell and the character is written boldly to reflect this. I particularly enjoyed the way that the mother had no idea but to follow her husband and the beliefs she had grown up with, as this made her character seem much more mentally unstable as opposed to just cruel.
The plot itself is quite interesting; the introduction of boys to the island really stirs the pot but also lights a fire in the women’s eyes and bodies as they fight their urges, whether sexual or harmful, There is a lot of suggestion made throughout the plot, especially where Grace is concerned, and I feel like this should have been better explained. One theme in this novel is certainly trust and I enjoyed reading the differences in the women and how as well as who they chose to trust.
The writing itself makes the book smooth and nice to read; the words flow together nicely and the composition of the book means that the reader is not questioning things or turning back to figure out what they have just read. I like Mackintosh’s use of language and description to bring her work of fiction together.

What I didn’t like
Like I’ve said, this story is quite weird. And that includes the way it is told to the reader. The narrative voice certainly assumes knowledge on the part of the reader and, if you were to read this book without reading a summary, which I often do, you would be very confused as to where you were and what was wrong with these women. Mackintosh dives straight into the main bulk of the story, which can throw the reader off from the word go and, I imagine, prevent them from wanting to finish the book altogether.
I was also confused about the treatment of gender roles in this book; as a feminist commentary, I understood the ending and the roles each of the sisters played in terms of one another through their childhood. However, once the men arrived on the island, I felt these roles getting altered as they sunk back into traditional female stereotypes, especially Lia. The book takes some turns which I didn’t think were necessary and actually meant that the conclusion of the story was more difficult to reach for the reader.

Overall, I would say that The Water Cure is a solid 4* book. It has a great, interesting plot, setting, set of characters and really great imagery and use of language. The novel’s shortcomings are subjective, and I do believe that lots of people would enjoy it, however cannot come up with a set kind of person I would recommend to read this book. Thank you NetGalley and Penguin UK for allowing me to read this ARC in exchange for an honest review.


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