The Book: Water Shall Refuse Them
Author: Lucie McKnight Hardy
Publisher: Dead Ink Books
Genre & Themes: folk horror, historical fiction, coming-of-age
Trigger warning: animal cruelty
Thank you to the lovely people at Dead Ink Books for sending me a copy of this book to review!
Water Shall Refuse Them is unlike anything I’ve ever read.
I’ve seen in a lot of other reviews, and in fact, it’s marketed to be similar to Shirley Jackson – in particular We have Always Lived in the Castle, which is a book that has been on my TBR for ages, but I’ve never actually picked up.
I immediately felt immersed in the world from the get go. We find out early on that Nif and her family are temporarily moving to Wales. What was once a family of five is now a family of four, after her younger sister accidentally drowns in the bath.
The whole atmosphere was so creepy, and the feeling that something is awry encompasses you from the very start. Nif becomes completely focused on collecting objects to include in her ‘ritual’. As the reader, we’re unsure whether she is being told to perform this ritual, or whether it’s all in her head and is a coping mechanism. This essence of the unknown is so disconcerting, but compelling and I honestly couldn’t put it down. I was completely unsettled by all of the characters – they were really intriguing, and yet disturbing. It made for a really interesting read.
In terms of the rituals, I’ve put at the top of this post a trigger warning for animal cruelty which, whilst not entirely unexpected, still took me by surprise, and was upsetting to read. It is really well written though – whilst I squirmed as I read these parts, our main character Nif paid no attention to her violent acts. Instead, she was completely focused on doing what needed to be done (in her mind), in order to complete her ritual. Eerie af.
Whilst I did see the plot twist coming, it wasn’t in a bad way at all. It was actually just one of my many theories about what had actually happened. It’s definitely not the kind of book where, if you work out what is going to happen, the book is ruined. It’s the complete opposite.
I actually read this book during the heatwave a few weeks back, and as it’s actually set in the heatwave of 1976, it definitely made for a very atmospheric, and hot, read.
This book was captivating. It was creepy, and eerie and I’m still unsettled by it, but in the best way possible. It definitely makes me want to read another Lucie McKnight Hardy book!
What did you guys read in August? Let me know in a comment with any recent faves you think everyone should read!