A stunningly beautifully written novel by the author of Fen. This retelling of (at least) two fairy tales/myths is set on the river and tells the story of a daughter abandoned by her mother.
Words are important to Gretel, always have been. As a child, she lived on a canal boat with her mother, and together they invented a language that was just their own. She hasn’t seen her mother since the age of sixteen, though – almost a lifetime ago – and those memories have faded. Now she works as a lexicographer, updating dictionary entries, which suits her solitary nature. A phone call from the hospital interrupts Gretel’s isolation and throws up questions from long ago. She begins to remember the private vocabulary of her childhood. She remembers other things, too: the wild years spent on the river; the strange, lonely boy who came to stay on the boat one winter; and the creature in the water – a canal thief? – swimming upstream, getting ever closer. In the end there will be nothing for Gretel to do but go back.
‘Weird and wild and wonderfully unsettling… Dive in for just a moment and you’ll emerge gasping and haunted’ Celeste Ng, bestselling author of Little Fires Everywhere
It’s been sixteen years since Gretel last saw her mother, half a lifetime to forget her childhood on the canals. But a phone call will soon reunite them, and bring those wild years flooding back: the secret language that Gretel and her mother invented; the strange boy, Marcus, living on the boat that final winter; the creature said to be underwater, swimming ever closer.
In the end there will be nothing for Gretel to do but to wade deeper into their past, where family secrets and aged prophesies will all come tragically alive again.
‘As readable as it is dazzling, full of unsettling twists and dark revelations’ Observer
**SHORTLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2018**
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