Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Book Review: SHEERWATER by Leah Swann


Title: SHEERWATER
Author: Leah Swann
Publisher: HarperCollins Australia
Read: January 2020
Expected publication: 23 March 2020
My Rating: 🌟🌟🌟1/2


Book Description:


Ava and her two young sons, Max and Teddy, are driving to their new home in Sheerwater, hopeful of making a fresh start in a new town, although Ava can't but help keep looking over her shoulder. They're almost at their destination when they witness a shocking accident - a light plane crashing in the field next to the road. Ava stops to help, but when she gets back to the car, she realises that somewhere, amongst the smoke, fire and confusion, her sons have gone missing...

My musings:


Before you pick up this book, make sure you understand the meaning of: “beautifully written, propulsive, tense, gut-wrenching and unputdownable” in the blurb. Especially the “gut-wrenching” bit. Or shall I say “gut-punching”? Because after finishing it this morning, I still feel strangely winded and hollow.

Let me also make it clear that you should not make the same mistake I made, and pick this up thinking it is mainly a mystery. I was somewhat puzzled when the “mystery” component was pretty much obsolete by the second part of the book. Instead, choose this book knowing it is about relationships, parenthood, trauma, domestic abuse (in all its shapes and form) and the unravelling of the human psyche into darkness.

You will get a taste of what is to follow from the very opening pages, when a small plane crashes into a field next to the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. Ava and her two small children are the first on scene. Ava feels the same dilemma any mother in that situation would face – she has children in the car, should she stop or just drive on and call for help? With her rescuer background, she cannot resist the compulsion to render assistance. Instructing the boys to stay in the car and look away, she sets off to give first aid. And thus her fate is forever changed.

Swann writes beautifully and lyrically, conjuring up the stunning scenery of the Victorian coastline with her words. This is a two-sided sword, because her horrific scenes are just as vivid and unescapable as the tranquil ones (which are thankfully thrown into the mix every now and then to give the reader breathing space). Her characters are well drawn, their emotional baggage relatable, their plight unimaginable. With an uncanny insight into the human psyche, she teases out her characters’ darkest secrets, slowly and gradually, so that the picture we may have formed initially soon begins to unravel. It is very difficult to discuss this book without spoilers, so I will keep it brief. I had a lot of assumptions challenged. I was duly terrified when all the clues led to the inevitable finale, and yet I was not prepared for it.

Relationships feature strongly in this novel. Ava and Laurence’s marriage, which we gradually learn more about as the story progresses. The mother-daughter relationship between Ava and her mother. Motherhood. Brotherhood. Fatherhood, as seen through the eyes of Laurence, which will hold some surprises. Friendships in the most unexpected places. Dysfuntional, some of them.


Yes, I will leave it here because as much as I would like to blurt out some of the details that absolutely sucker punched me, I will not spoil it for you. Read it with a buddy, one you can call in the middle of the night when you have read the last page and need a friend as much as a 1800 helpline. 


Thank you to Netgalley and HarperCollins Australia for the free electronic copy of this novel and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.



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