... clever and arresting ... Mackintosh is up to something far more interesting than a celebration of female dysfunction. Still, I sometimes longed for the narrative reins to be returned to the more hardheaded and clear-eyed Grace ... [The book's] insularity gives The Water Cure the cloistered, ahistorical atmosphere of a fairy tale, where elemental dramas play out much as they have since humanity first began telling stories ... Ingenious and incendiary, The Water Cure is less a warning about the way we live now, the hazardous path society is careering down, than it is about the way we have always lived, parents and children, fathers and daughters, men and women.
Extraordinary ... [Mackintosh] is writing the way that Sofia Coppola would shoot the end of the world: everything is luminous, precise, slow to the point of dread ... The Water Cure isn’t just otherworldly. Doesn’t every dark fantasy expose the parts of real life we’d rather not confront?
Startling ... The prose is both spectral and organic. The writing pushes you very close up against the thing it describes ... it is difficult to gauge how dystopian the outside world actually is ... both an allegory and a playbook of male wrongdoing, and is less exciting only when it feels more exclusively the latter. But then, it’s precisely this collusion between the ordinary and the extraordinary that gives the book its elemental power: its immediacy as a simple story and its completeness on the heightened metaphorical level. It’s a seriously impressive feat of imagination, this: to keep an abstract moral and its concrete realisation absolutely balanced, with both so full and vital.
... evocative, suspenseful, and bleak ... It's [Lia's] voice — sensitive, needy and ultimately angry — that makes the world of The Water Cure come to life ... The Water Cure is both otherworldly and very much of this world in its deep pessimism about the fate of the planet, as well as the fate of equitable relations between men and women. It's not a pretty or uplifting novel, but it's effective — and clearly it's the kind of story that Mackintosh and a lot of other authors feel they need to be writing — and we need to be reading — right now.
... sumptuous yet sparsely written ... It’s [the family's] cultishness that muddies the thematic waters of this novel. At first glance The Water Cure seems to be in conversation with Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale... Yet the unspoken interstices of the story, to which Mackintosh delicately draws the reader’s attention with haunting, oblique prose, emphasize just how much hogwash the parents are feeding their daughters.
In its pursuit of perilous ambiguity, The Water Cure has the quality of a folk or fairy tale ... At the level of its language, Mackintosh’s novel is something else again: a book so saturated with intense and unsettling imagery that its sentences feel like face-fulls of polluted sea spray. In places Mackintosh is just luridly metaphorical: a stillborn child resembles a glass paperweight, physical or emotional trauma is like a poison that leaches into hair, organs, blood. Or her prose is satisfyingly rhythmic and at the same time semantically untethered... At their most achieved, however, Mackintosh’s sentences are strict, cool containers for a variety of organic or atmospheric disintegrations ... In the shape of its narrative, The Water Cure is less extraordinary than in its texture. There is a predictability to the novel’s violent conclusion, as it mimics and reverses the closing scenes of The Tempest ... Which is also to say that Mackintosh has written a novel that feels sorely of its time.
... eerie and stunning, driven mostly by poetic devices in the language and dramatic action ... Mackintosh has created somewhat of a modern myth about family trauma, stirred with the relationships between women and their bodies ... The language is lucid, efficient, an accumulation of sentences that become an amalgam of beauty and pain ... haunting ...
... a tart, uncanny debut novel ... Mackintosh excels at creating a sense of ambient, originless dread, of pending apocalypse ... The Water Cure is not a simple book ... The Water Cure doesn't, of course, offer a solution to [toxic masculinity]. But it does show us, in the bond between Lia, Grace, and Sky, that we have at least one tool not available to Eve back at the beginning of the world: sisterhood.
Every once in a while a book comes along that is so powerful, so replete with well-sculpted prose and telling such an urgent narrative that I find it impossible to put down. Sophie Mackintosh’s debut novel is just such a book. I want everyone to read it, especially every woman, every writer ... Mackintosh is never heavy-handed in her fable, instead the story unfolds slowly through the voices of the three sisters together ... A masterful writer, Mackintosh draws the reader in incredibly skillfully. Generally when I’m reading, I line edit in my head as I go but Mackintosh’s prose is so clear, so perfect that for once, I could just relax and read ... These women are fascinating and the patterns of their language and ways of living in the world are so compelling...
In Mackintosh’s skilled hands, readers encounter this world as if in a fever dream and float on its characters’ disparate and shifting points of view. Book clubs may enjoy discussing the dystopian and feminist themes of Mackintosh’s exciting debut.
Even in descriptions of more painful activities, there's something Joni Mitchell-esque about the lyrical, emotional tone of the prose ... By definition, a dystopian novel can't really have a happy ending. But Mackintosh's profound faith in sisterhood imbues her particular dark vision with beauty and a kind of hope.
Sophie Mackintosh’s spectacular debut novel, The Water Cure, has at its core an elemental fairy-tale quality, one that derives more from the menacing forests of the Brothers Grimm than the Technicolor palettes of Disney or Pixar ... The book’s true brilliance comes from its myriad uncertainties. Some are laid bare, others — including what specifically drove them to the island — remain nebular.
Is this a feminist or antifeminist novel? Such is the mastery of the author that one is left to ponder the ideas in this book long after finishing it ... This book is interesting on so many levels: unrequited love, murder, abandonment, and the unshakeable bond of sisterhood ... This book is interesting and thought-provoking.
This is only Mackintosh’s first novel, but her talent’s already fully-formed; a debut that places her among literature’s most exciting new voices ... measured, precise prose exacerbate[s] the characters’ pain and desire, their struggle for redemption and freedom ... exquisitely well-written ... The story has the spirit of a lucid fever dream, a timeless fable, though its concerns are deeply anchored in the real world ... though you can read the sisters through mythology—the Greek moirai, for instance—they are not elevated into myth; they are painfully, all-too-recognizably human, and they find their salvation in each other.
The Water Cure is searing and ethereal, poetic and furious ... For anyone discouraged by the myriad headlines of 2018, fatigued by the near-constant rage expected of and experienced by women, and looking for something to reawaken their angry feminist fighter in 2019, this January novel is one place to start.
... dreamy and violent ... This is a beautiful novel with imaginative and rich language, and fascinating, enigmatic characters living in a sparse, tense and strange world ... Even with lingering questions and a hazy resolution, The Water Cure is highly recommended. The haunting story plays with dystopian, feminist and filial themes, and the writing is often breathtaking. This impressive debut heralds a striking new literary talent.
Intense, ambitious ... Mackintosh’s gripping novel is vicious in its depiction of victimhood, vibrant when victims transform into warriors, and full of outrage at patriarchal power, environmental devastation, and the dehumanization of women.
While the narrative at times veers toward the pedantic, it's both shocking and refreshing to see the observations women make to one another—about the specific, learned cruelties and emotional violence of men—represented so plainly on the page ... An evocative coming-of-age novel that captures the fear, rage, and yearning of three women growing up in a time of heightened violence.