"Water Will Refuse Them" Book Review

Written by Charlotte Stear

Published by Dead Ink

water shall refuse them large

Written by Lucie McKnight Hardy
2019, 256 pages, Fiction
Released on 4th July 2019


Summer is here, and if you are searching for the perfect weird read to complement this hot, sticky weather then we may have found that for you.

Water Shall Refuse Them is the debut novel by Lucie McKnight Hardy, set in a heatwave of 1976, Nif and her family take a break from their troubled life in England and spend the summer in a small town on the Welsh border. But this new setting isn’t the change they were looking for and they instantly feel unwelcome in this unknown village. Nif begins to collect talismans, creating her own form of witchcraft and meets Mally, a strange young boy that shares her beliefs. While Nif’s parents are dealing with the grief of losing one of their children and their unravelling relationship, she and Mally grow closer performing their own rituals that will lead to outcomes Nif couldn’t imagine.

Depending on where you are in the world, you’re most likely experiencing some unusual weather (hello, climate change). Here in the UK we’re complaining about the soaring heat and lack of rain (our poor grass!), we love a moan, especially when it comes to weather. So the timing of Lucie Mcknight Hardy’s first novel is quite perfect. The heatwave depicted in Water Shall Refuse Them is written is such detail that sweat could be dripping from the pages, the suffocating heat intensifies the spiralling relationships in the story, making it a claustrophobic read that escalates as the book progresses.

What stands out is the general unease that is present throughout the book. Hardy has created an atmosphere of growing disquiet; there is something just under the surface that doesn’t sit right. This should be a normal holiday trip, but we know from the opening chapter, which depicts the family travelling to their holiday destination, that something terrible has happened to them and that something will possibly never be right again. In this respect it is very reminiscent of Iain Banks’ The Wasp Factory (and like this book, it was also a debut novel), on the surface things are normal but delve deeper and there is trouble brewing. It makes for a very unsettling read, in a good way of course.

It is through Hardy’s detailed descriptions that bring this sense of unease alive. She makes this story almost ooze with uncomfortable imagery, adding to the sickly feel both in terms of the heat and the witchcraft elements; “Worms in grease” describes uneaten bacon, the “prickle of the sun’s needles” on skin, you get the picture. There are a number of occasions however where the similes become a little too frequent and the story would have fared just as well if they had been omitted, but still, what we have here is an incredible vision of a hazy summer.

If witchcraft, weirdness and heatwaves are your thing, then Water Shall Refuse Them is your must have summer read. Weaving together grief, the occult, and coming of age, Hardy has triumphed with a debut novel so immersive it will make you feel you are in the thick of it all. I look forward to more from this fresh new voice.


Overall: fourstars Cover
Buy from Amazon UK

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