Publication Date: Available Now from Faber.
Source: Purchased copy
John Harper lies awake at night in an isolated hut on an Indonesian island, listening to the rain on the roof and believing his life may be in danger. But he is less afraid of what is going to happen than of something he’s already done.
In a local town, he meets Rita, a woman with her own troubled history. They begin an affair – but can he allow himself to get involved when he knows this might put her at risk?
Moving between Europe during the cold war, California and the Civil Rights struggle, and Indonesia during the massacres of 1965 and the decades of military dictatorship that follow, Black Water is an epic novel that explores some of the darkest events of recent world history through the story of one troubled man.
I went into Black Water having only read Apple Tree Yard from Louise Doughty – I thought Black Water was all kinds of amazing but I think it is worth noting, that if you like me have only read that one book that has been so popular (for good reason) that Black Water is a very different kettle of fish – therefore might be somewhat unexpected.
What I loved about this one was the setting and the drawing of the background, a slow burn of literary suspense where the beauty was in the characters and their journeys. I don’t know a lot about Indonesia, the culture or the history but Black Water felt honestly authentic and Louise Doughty digs deep into the heart of things.
Black Water is both tragic and beautiful, John Harper is compelling, not always likeable but endlessly fascinating. The history is cleverly interwoven into a tale of one man’s life battles, both internal and external and towards the end of the novel I was almost literally holding my breath. The author breathes a strange inevitability into her plotting, this is a political drama in some ways but mostly an intensive and insightful character study.
I loved the writing, I loved that it didn’t rush you towards judgement, I wouldn’t call it a thriller although it was at times thrilling. Dramatic suspense at it’s very best. It makes me want to follow this author onwards because both of the books I have read of hers now have been completely different from each other but equally clever and emotionally gripping.
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