Title: Bodies of Water
Author: V.H. Leslie
Publisher: Salt Publishing
This is Leslie’s debut novel, or novela perhaps. It is written as a duel perspective, flitting between Kirsten in the 21st century and Evelyn in the 19th. Kirsten is recently single after the end of what was presumably quite a series relationship and has moved into a new flat on the outskirts of London along the banks of the river Thames. Evelyn is a wealthy but unmarried young woman who’s father has sent to her to a water treatment facility in the same building that will be remodelled almost 200 years later into Kirsten’s block of flats.
What initially drew me to this book was the partial setting in a 18th century, women’s mental health facility. I find the topic of women’s hysteria and it’s treatment incredibly disturbing and fascinating. It was historically a cruel, medical cover with which to control women; and there are definite allusions to the societal pressures placed on women and women’s sexuality running throughout this book.
Water. The water related themes and imagery were employed throughout this book to great effect. The thames, the water treatments, the infiltration of the water into Kirsten’s home and dreams. It captured an eery and urgent beauty that made me feel as though I too was drowning in the story. Evelyn’s own story seeped into Kirsten’s life much like the water. It had the effect of sweeping you along with it as well.
I also enjoyed the the two perspectives, which flitted back and forth between short but punchy individuals’ chapters. It contributed to the urgency of the book and kept you on your toes as a reader. I did finish this book in only a couple of hours after all, and I am by no means a speedy reader.
That’s not to say there are not elements of this story that could have been further fleshed out. I feel far more invested in Evelyn’s tale than I did with that of Kirsten. Often time Kristen’s character felt like a mere conduit for the reader to access Evelyn’s life. I would not go so far as to say Kirsten’s perspective should have been dumped from the book in its entirety; as I mentioned, I think it is the duel perspective of this novel that gives it its edge.
Personally, I would, however, have been happy to wait around for another 30 pages, digging a little deeper into the life and character of Kristen. That extra connection may have been what was lacking in this story to bump it up that extra star – from 4 to 5.
Not to get dragged down in the negatives, however, as you can gather by the 4 stars retention of this story I still thoroughly enjoyed it. I would dub it a solid debut novel and I will undoubtedly pick up V. H. Leslie’s next literary output!
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More about this book on my channel here: 3 Book Recommendation | Hysteria & Intrigue