Water is the first of a quartet of interlinked novels named after the elements by John Boyne
[ About Water]
The first thing Vanessa Carvin does when she arrives on the island is change her name. To the locals, she is Willow Hale, a solitary outsider escaping Dublin to live a hermetic existence in a small cottage, not a notorious woman on the run from her past.
But scandals follow like hunting dogs. And she has some questions of her own to answer. If her ex-husband is really the monster everyone says he is, then how complicit was she in his crimes?
Escaping her old life might seem like a good idea but the choices she has made throughout her marriage have consequences. Here, on the island, Vanessa must reflect on what she did – and did not do. Only then can she discover whether she is worthy of finding peace at all.
[ My Review ]
Water by John Boyne will publish November 2nd with Doubleday/Transworld and is described as ‘a masterfully reflective story about one woman coming to terms with the demons of her past and finding a new path forward.‘ It is the first book, from a series of four, by John Boyne that will make up The Elements. (Water, Fire, Earth and Air).
‘Water will be published on 2nd November 2023, Earth in May 2024, Fire in November 2024 and finally Air is due in May 2025. The blurb reads: “These are four individual stories with four very different narrators, all of whom have either been involved in, complicit with, or found themselves the victims of trauma, and whose experiences have been affected by the elements that give each book its title. And while each can be read as a standalone book, their characters intersect and overlap, their experiences informing the lives of each other. Taken together, this four-book sequence is Boyne’s most ambitious and powerful work to date.‘
– Taken from The Bookseller via John Boyne
Water introduces us to Vanessa Carvin, a woman trying to escape a life that has left her angry, saddened and grieving. Stripping herself of all the luxuries she once had, she cuts off her hair and chooses an almost monastic life on a small island off the west coast of Ireland. Some of the locals are curious, some are more insular but, for the most part, Vanessa is left alone. An island community has its own troubles to survive on a daily basis and Vanessa is quite happy to just melt into the background.
She spends most days in solitude but any interaction she does have is minimal and light in words. Vanessa has suffered and now just needs respite. Surrounded by water, with just the crashing of the waves and the howling of the wind, Vanessa craves the wildness and power of the elements – ‘water, fire, earth, air – (are) our greatest friends, our animators. They feed us, warm us, give us life, yet conspire to kill us at every juncture.’
John Boyne is not one to shy away from difficult themes and in Water he tackles issues from a very different perspective. Vanessa is traumatised and has been through a shattering experience. Riddled with guilt about what she thought she knew versus what society is convinced she knew has thrown Vanessa completely. Her confidence is gone. Her self-worth is gone. Vanessa is now doing all she can to keep herself from disappearing.
‘I don’t need their permission to take me away. If I could simply clap my hands and fall into a deep sleep out here, never to wake again, I would clap them’
At 176 pages, Water packs a serious punch. Sensitively handled, there are many weighty topics that are unfortunately all too relevant and prevalent in our world today. The media is full of scandal and horror. We are bombarded with images and shocking headlines. John Boyne delves a little deeper and takes the reader into the mind of a person we may not often think too much of when we hear similar stories across media platforms. The profound insights into Vanessa’s thoughts and actions are beautifully rendered and, as I would expect from John Boyne, extremely thought-provoking.
Water is a substantial yet compact read that will leave every reader with a sense of having been challenged in some way. Writing four books incorporating four of the elements of nature is intriguing but, in the hands of a writer like John Boyne, it is also a wondrous and provocative concept.
[ Bio ]
John Boyne is the author of fifteen novels for adults, six for younger readers, and a collection of short stories. His 2006 novel The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas has sold more than 11 million copies worldwide and has been adapted for cinema, theatre, ballet, and opera. His many international bestsellers include The Heart’s Invisible Furies and A Ladder to the Sky. He has won four Irish Book Awards, including Author of the Year in 2022, along with a host of other international literary prizes. His novels are published in sixty languages.