Book review: Black Water by Louise Doughty – blog tour


I was delighted to be asked to take part in the blog tour for this novel – thank you so much to Sophie Portas at Faber & Faber for inviting me to take part, and for providing a copy of the novel for review purposes…

The blurb:

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.

Black Water confirms Louise Doughty’s position as one of our most important contemporary novelists. She writes with fierce intelligence and a fine-tuned sense of moral ambiguity that makes her fiction resonate in the reader’s mind long after the final page has been turned.

My thoughts…

Having read Apple Tree Yard, I thought I knew exactly what type of book to expect from Louise Doughty, but I was proved wrong – in a good way! I admit it took me a while to get into the book as the start is shrouded in mystery, and I found myself asking all sorts of questions as I tried to piece together the main character’s situation. I liked the Indonesian setting, and as I continued reading I got more and more into the story, and was compelled to find out what had happened to John in the past, and how this had affected him in the present day.

The introduction of Rita early on in the novel added yet another dimension, as I also found her an intriguing character and I was keen to find out what would happen to them both.

We then step back in time and start to fill in some of the gaps in John’s life. Moving back to the conflicts in Indonesia during the 1960s, this is a time and place in history I didn’t know much about, and I felt I not only learnt a lot about this period in time, but also found out a lot more about John himself, which helped to fill in some of the gaps in the present day. It is hard to always like the character of John but I think the author very successfully built up a picture of him that allowed the reader to sympathise with him, while not necessarily relating to him.

This is not the twisty thriller you might expect from this author; instead this is a heavier drama that studies one key character in depth. It is not my usual sort of read, but I found it interesting and informative, and Doughty had clearly done her research. I do love a book that inspires me to do some research of my own, and that was certainly the case here. It has definitely confirmed that Doughty is an extremely interesting and multi-faceted writer, and I do look forward to seeing what she writes next!

My rating: 8 out of 10

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