All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Our Wives Under The Sea by Julia Armfield

on November 16, 2022

Our Wives Under The Sea
Julia Armfield
Picador
2022, 240p
Read via my local library

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}: Miri thinks she has got her wife back, when Leah finally returns after a deep-sea mission that ended in catastrophe. It soon becomes clear, though, that Leah is not the same. Whatever happened in that vessel, whatever it was they were supposed to be studying before they were stranded on the ocean floor, Leah has brought part of it back with her, onto dry land and into their home.

Moving through something that only resembles normal life, Miri comes to realize that the life that they had before might be gone. Though Leah is still there, Miri can feel the woman she loves slipping from her grasp.

Our Wives Under The Sea is the debut novel from Julia Armfield, the critically acclaimed author of salt slow. It’s a story of falling in love, loss, grief, and what life there is in the deep deep sea.

Do you ever read a book, get to the end and then think to yourself ‘I have absolutely no idea what happened there?’

Yeah, that was me upon finishing this.

I think I heard about this in a podcast I was listening to and I was super pleased when I searched it up on my library’s database and found it on the shelf. I thought, from the brief amount I heard about it, that it sounded fascinating. I kind of love submarine stuff – I’ve watched a few movies centring around them and a TV show or two but I’ve never really read a book about characters on a submarine. There’s something about that feeling of being trapped under water should anything that go wrong, that lends the creepiest vibe – and in this book, something does indeed go wrong.

The book is told in two sections, alternating viewpoints between Miri and Leah. Miri’s viewpoint is mostly told in the present, after Leah has returned from six months or whatever it was, under the sea when she was only supposed to be gone three weeks. It does flash back to various points during Leah’s missing period but for the most part it deals in the after and what Leah is going through now. The other viewpoint is Leah herself and that is from her perspective during the doomed venture in the submersible – from the moment they realise they’ve lost power and are sinking to the bottom of the sea floor as well as the various incidents that happen during their time out of communication, the weird and the tragic.

I enjoyed the beginning of this – the atmosphere was really well done, Miri’s frustration in the present and her confusion about the weird behaviour that Leah is displaying as well as the frustration at the lack of communication from her workplace as well as the difficulty in contacting them or getting a single straight answer about anything. And Leah’s flashbacks for what happened were also interesting.

But my interest definitely began to wane the further I got into this. After a while the atmosphere and vagueness wasn’t enough for me. Miri is just…frustratingly blasé about the weirdness going on with Leah, her behaviour and strange habits since returning. And I get that okay, she thought she was dead after Leah was only supposed to be gone for six weeks and I’m sure she’s relieved and ecstatic to have her back again….but look, there are severe issues here and a lot of the book just seems to pretend that it isn’t happening or that it’s something that will pass.

I think if you’re the sort of person that is ok, or enjoys ambiguity and is happy to just sink into the aftermath and explore the relationship of the two women whilst almost ignoring the very weird things that’ll happen, this is a book you’ll enjoy. If you want some answers, if you want to know what happened to the submarine and why and understand exactly what is happening….this one is probably not going to be something you fall in love with. And honestly, I fall more into the second camp, if the book is going to set something up and revolve something around it, then I want to know why.

I finished this because it was a short read and I wanted some more answers and it was an easy read. But ultimately, I didn’t love it and I felt like I finished the book with more questions than answers. Some people love that. I have to say that a lot of the writing was quite good and I feel like the information the author chose to convey, she conveyed very well. But I wanted so much more from this in that I think I thought it was going to be a very different type of story than it was. And the ending left me just…..meh. And I don’t think that would’ve all been the intention.

5/10

Book #188 of 2022

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