There is an uneasiness that grips you in the first six chapters of Anne Berry’s novel. You inhabit the lives of children whose souls are flooded with grief by mind altering water related tragedies. A sister drowns; two young girls barely survive a fall through an iced pond; a boy leaves home after being punished for swimming; a baby is drowned by an orphaned child who wants to stop the crying. You feel their damaged psyches as they grow. It is very compelling writing.
I wanted to follow each of their lives separate track. Unfortunately, in chapter seven convenience trumped realism. The lives of the children intertwine, gradually revealing their pain to each other. You no longer inhabit the characters, but are looking at them from the outside. It is still a good read, but much less so than it could have been. I assume this was the author’s choice and not the editor’s; but I wished Anne Berry took on the greater challenge.
In The Water Children, water is dream, nightmare, life, and death. It is beautiful, passive, and suffocating. The impression that it leaves on the characters is as indelible as their broken homes and relationships. There is a ruddy feel to the work. The time period is current, but the English venue and modd is medeival Dickens: urchins and scoundrels.
Ms. Berry is an author well worth reading. Her debut novel, The Hungry Ghosts, earned her critical praise and her lastest work is The Adoption. I will read her writing again.