Bodies of Water by V H Leslie

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Bodies of Water by V H Leslie

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Category: Paranormal
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Erin Hull
Reviewed by Erin Hull
Summary: An intriguing partnership of a modern and Victorian perspective. The focus on character development is limited but where it excels is in its commentary on the treatment of Victorian women as well as its hair-raising and unsettling tone.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 144 Date: May 2016
Publisher: Salt
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1784630713

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Bodies of Water is a concise novella featuring a dual narrative from the perspectives of Kirsten, a modern day woman on the mend from a broken heart, and Evelyn, a nineteenth century 'guest' of a water treatment centre for ailing women. Kirsten moves into the old Wakewater House, attempting to heal herself with the proximity of the water. Centuries ago, Evelyn was forced by her father to visit that same house in order to restore her old vigour, but the water cannot drown out the ghost that haunts her. In fact, the water itself is a powerful and supernatural force. As the water encroaches upon both of their lives, Kirsten and Evelyn search to unveil the mysteries of the house as well as the drenched dark-haired figure who appears before them.

At a mere one hundred and forty-four pages, this wisp of a book was at times highly engaging and bone-chillingly eerie. V.H Leslie pours forth disturbing and poetic descriptions of the mistreatment of Victorian women, their bodies laid bare and cut open for the self-indulgent interests of curious men. Evelyn's perspective gives a refreshing view on the most vulnerable of society and how the respectable upper class brushed the undesirables under the rug, looking the other way from the women forced to sell their bodies in order to survive in an escapable cycle of poverty.

Initially, Evelyn was established as a selfless and thoughtful character. Her independent thinking and moral goodness was reminiscent of that of Jane Eyre as both characters in my eyes have great minds that are wrongfully contained by Victorian society. She showed the beginnings of a dynamic character with her dutiful project to help 'fallen women' and her challenges of suppressing her sexuality, but the length of this book really served to undercut the full potential of her growth and eventually her actions became strange and sporadic. Within the space of a chapter she seemed to become a different character from even the small of amount that we are able learn about her. Perhaps if this book was longer or focused on one perspective then the change in Evelyn's character could have been more steadily developed. I wanted to understand her more fully and gauge more details about her life, such as the troubled relationship she had with her father, but ultimately the book ended for me with the feeling of only understanding a small portion of her character.

While Evelyn piqued my interest, Kirsten was a bland character with few defining traits. It was frustrating to read the allusions to her past relationship without actually discovering what led to its breakdown. This relationship seemed to be her only focus and I wondered why she seemed to spend all her time in the house without any outside obligations to work or family and friends. In a way this helped to build up her isolation which produced an ominous tone in the book but at the same time Kirsten did not seem like a real character, merely a plot device to show us the present day mysteries of the house.

While V.H. Leslie did create a fast-paced and mysterious novella that I would recommend for a quick read, for the most part its characters were lacklustre and the plot reaches a strange climax with little resolution. The story dips into many themes but overall it is unclear what it aimed to achieve. Rationality and consistency seems to peter out as the novella progresses, resulting in a dissatisfying end to a story with high potential.

Further reading: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

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