Friendship doesn't die, it waits...
A haunting and lyrical novel, 'Dark Water' is a psychologically intense portrait of adolescent yearning and obsession.
When Helena returns to her childhood home in Orkney, she is forced to face memories that she has spent half a lifetime running from. Her best friend, the charismatic Anastasia, disappeared after a swimming incident. But what really happened that night by the wrecks?
Right off I want to say that even though this story is shrouded by mystery, it is not a fast-paced, suspenseful thriller, so if you're after that sort of heart-pumping book, this is not for you. This is a rather atmospheric tale with tragedy at its centre.
After more than a decade, Helena returns to her childhood home in Orkney islands to see her father through an operation and help out her stepmother. She had been reluctant to return to this place which harbours so many unwanted memories.
"Anastasia was there, looming over them still all these years later..."
The story alternates between the present, when Helena meets again her old acquaintances and old flames and revisits old haunts, and the past, as she relives memories of her school and teenage years and her first experiences, always accompanied by her partner in crime, best friend Anastasia. Together, the two girls, were always up to some form of mischief.
We know that Anastasia disappeared when the girls were still teenagers. No one knows what happened to her and the mystery was never solved, but her presumed death had had a deep impact on Anastasia and the whole close-knit community of the islands. What happened to Anastasia? Where did she go? Did she really die?
Okay, this book is written brilliantly, the prose is alive, vivid and fluid making the reader literally fly through the pages. All characters are well-portrayed, interesting and realistically flawed.
I liked the way the author introduces us to Orkney Islands. Like Helena we have our first view down from the plane window as it comes down to land. Thanks to vivid descriptions, I really felt as if I too was visiting this beautiful place. Before reading this book, I wasn't even sure where the Orkney Islands were situated, I didn't know about the shipwrecks littering Orkney's seabeds, that there sometimes it's still not dark by 11pm or what a Broch is, so apart from reading a fab new intriguing book, I learned a lot of interesting things about these islands.
Anastasia's presence can be felt all the time in the present, following Helena's every step. Though the story alternates between past and present, it is never confusing. And though the plot is not fast-paced, it is never annoying. I wanted to know what had really happened to Anastasia so that kept me on my toes and interested till the unexpected ending, which I have to say shocked me!
The story focuses mostly on the girls' teenage angst, rebellion, partying, first love, experiences and disappointments and on present day Helena as she tries to come to terms with her past and reflect on her future. Maybe I would have liked just a teeny bit more action or twists within the plot. But having said that, I really enjoyed reading this fabulous debut novel (doesn't feel like a debut!) and I highly recommend it.
With thanks to Nightingale Editions for an ARC of this book in exchange of an honest review.
Dr Sara Bailey is a writer, consultant and lecturer who has been working with authors and screenwriters for many years, in Richmond-upon-Thames, Winchester
and Southampton. She has a PhD in Creative and Critical Writing from Bangor University.
Her first book was published by Bloomsbury in 2013, Writing the Horror Movie, which she co-authored whilst hiding behind a cushion. Recently she has returned to her home of Orkney, the setting of her debut novel, Dark Water.