Book Review: The Water Cure – Sophie Mackintosh


Posted 6 months ago in Print

Café 1920 opening

The Water Cure

Sophie Mackintosh

Hamish Hamilton

Sisters Lia, Sky, and Grace live by a secluded beach with their mother and King, their father. Under their parents’ rule, the girls are subject to rituals of pain and endurance intended to repel any sickness the world might gift them: drowning dresses fitted with weights, scream therapy, and being sewn into sacks while stewing in a sauna to “sweat out the bad feelings.”

In the background, there are vague but worrying suggestions of environmental deterioration – the earth seems to have turned against its inhabitants, infecting food and people alike. The so-called water cure – which in practice appears like the worst form of torture, administered by careful, sincere hands – shimmers throughout the book as a cure for the illness of living in a poisoned world.

When King suddenly disappears, and strange men arrive at the beach, Lia seizes the narration and her own agency, delivering one scorching insight after another: “And what is a boy,” she asks, after witnessing her sisters torment the young Gwil, “if not a hurtable man, a safe version?”

Her voracious sexuality combats her love for her sisters, but one shared emotion remains intact between them: rage, humming like a live wire, passed down to them from generations of wronged women. Mackintosh’s debut is fanged, brutal, quick as a snapped bone, and displays the accumulative force of collective fury.

Words: John Vaughan

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