Our Favourite Water-Related Books

By Charlie Fabre, Victoria Bromley and Trina Read

We wanted to share our favourite water-related books, perfectly in keeping with the theme of our first issue

We’ve almost wrapped up issue one! We picked our shortlist and emailed everyone back and now all that’s left to do is design the issue and get it printed. In the meantime, we thought we’d share with you our favourite books in keeping with the water theme, where it all started. 

Our picks will probably resemble the first issue’s shortlist, in that, the text doesn’t have to be about water to be water-related, but water has to be a prominent element, like a theme or a recurring image.

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami – Charlie’s pick

Kafka on the Shore is the first book by Murakami that I read, and it’s the book that automatically cemented him as one of my favourite authors. The reason it’s related to water is because of the painting featured within that is a central part of the plot: it’s a painting of a young boy sat by the shore.

There are many reasons as to why I love this book. Tamura’s character and arc is really compelling as he goes from being a young boy running away from his truth, to slowly accepting himself, even the dark parts. The elements of magical realism are so unique and whimsical, it feels like an adult fairy tale. The prose is simply stunning, Murakami is a master of his writing and it’s such a joy to read. Most of all, though, Kafka on the Shore is a book that really made me think, it’s quite philosophical, and I can honestly say that I became a different person after reading it. 

At its core, Kafka on the Shore is a book that reminds us that souls are the most important aspect of life, and they are what makes us human and what we touch when we interact with people and allow them into our lives. It’s a beautiful reflection on love, life, alienation, and loneliness.

I’ve found that Murakami is one of those authors that you either love or hate as his plots can veer towards the very philosophical and oftentimes confusing, as well as touching on certain taboos in unexpected ways. The way that I read Murakami, and love him as a result, is by just accepting that there are certain elements that won’t make sense to me, and certain elements that are meant to remain a riddle. As long as the whole makes sense, the small details don’t matter all that much. I like to take Murakami’s beautiful prose at face value, and I choose to enjoy it for that. My best advice when approaching a Murakami book, especially one like Kafka, is to just enjoy the ride.

Once upon a River by Diane Setterfirld – Vic’s pick

Judging by the title of this book, it’s no mystery what body of water this novel revolves around. Set in the late 1800s on the River Thames, Once Upon a River is an atmospheric, gothic, mysterious, thrilling and dazzling novel about the people who live along the river and how they react to the miracle that occurs at The Swan inn one magical day. A man bursts into the inn holding a doll-like child who had drowned in the river, yet hours later she starts to breathe again. But when three different parties try to claim the child, no one truly knows who this child is and who she belongs to.

I fell in love with the writing of this novel. Like the magical, whimsical beauty of Erin Morgenstern’s writing (author of The Night Circus and The Starless Sea), and the gothic and dark nature of Daphne Du Maurier (author of Rebecca), this novel was expertly crafted and realised. 

The link to water in this novel is very physical and geographical: the river shaping the landscape in which the characters live and travel. However, there are many metaphorical and hidden representations of water in this novel. The river is a powerful and magical element, dangerous to those who go into its waters with the threat of death, yet the drowned girl survived from the river’s grasp. There are romantic elements of the river, poetic and lyrical descriptions of the flowing water. 

There are many characters to remember in this novel and they all have a key role. Go into this story with concentration as it can get a little complicated at times, but the mystery and revelations and magic are all worth it.

The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey – Trina’s pick

This book is an absolute gem. Monique Roffey writes in a way that is both contemporary and timeless. Set in an imaginary Caribbean island, this tale about a mythical mermaid is interwoven with a realist, contemporary setting in such a flawless and readable manner. Roffey makes the mythical seem plausible as she tackles real life societal issues alongside the magical. 

Fisherman David saves the mermaid Aycayia after she is captured by Americans and looks after her in his house. Whilst there she turns slowly back into a human and we uncover why she has been cursed to live as a mermaid, as well as watching David fall in love with her.

What I loved about Roffey’s novel was how she introduced Aycayia’s perspective through verse as opposed to prose which highlighted, for me, her connection with the water as it is something more lyrical and flowing. Although Aycayia wasn’t born a mermaid, it is clear that she has a strong connection and an affiliation with water and the sea which makes her who she is. 

This is definitely not one to miss and will leave you emotionally tethered to the characters of Black Conch.

What are your favourite water-related books? Let us know in the comments.

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