The Water Children by Anne Berry

Four lives. Four defining moments which will bring them together. Owen Abingdon is haunted by nightmares of the Merfolk. He believes they have stolen his little sister who vanished while he was meant to be minding her on the beach, but he was only a child himself. Is it fair for his mother to blame him? Catherine Hoyle’s perfect Christmas with her cousin from America was blighted when they went skating on thin ice and Rosalyn nearly died. Somehow, instead of being praised for raising the alarm, Catherine gets blamed. Sean Madigan grew up on a farm in Ireland. Learning to swim in the Shannon was his way of escaping the bitter poverty of his childhood, but it also incurred his father’s wrath. He flees to England, but his heart belongs to the Shannon and her pulling power is ever near! Unlike the other three, Naomi Seddon didn’t fear the sea. She’d been orphaned and placed in a children’s home in Sheffield and cruelly abused. The sea offered her a way out and she revelled in its cruel power. The “water children” meet in London in the searing hot summer of 1976 and Naomi uses her siren’s charm to lure Owen, Catherine and Sean into her tangled web of sexual charm and dangerous passion. A holiday in the Tuscan mountains with a flooded reservoir and its legend of the beautiful Teodora who drowned there brings this emotional drama to a powerful climax. Will the power of family, love and redemption finally help the water children conquer their fears and triumph over their childhood traumas?
When I first started reading the Water Children I found the writing hard to adjust to as to me it felt as if I was reading a report, merely an observation.  I didn’t think my emotions would be engaged but having said that, I admit to becoming very involved and sobbing my heart out in places!
This traumatic and psychological tale starts with an introduction to the childhood of Owen and then Catherine and is the foundation that then leads us on to the summer of 1976.
I thought Anne Berry captured a child’s perspective really well and the fear that can carry over to adulthood.  The trauma that affects the family involved in Owen’s life and changes everything is very well written and felt very real.
As a child myself in 1976 my memories are of beaches, swimming pools and fun.  I don’t remember the discomfort of the heat at all.  As an adult of course, I could quite well identify with how the ‘adult’ world coped and this setting in London for the main body of the story at this time added heaviness and torpor that wouldn’t have worked quite so well somewhere else. 
In no way is this slow to start and the momentum is kept going throughout.  From the very beginning we know from the synopsis that something irreparable is going to happen that will leave weeping wounds.  The ‘darkness’ kept me enthralled and although I wasn’t comfortable reading some parts of the story, I had to keep reading to find out more, to find out if there was a healing, a coming full circle to wholeness.  I loved delving into the ‘shadow’ through this story.  I enjoyed being taken out of my comfort zone.
The symmetry of the story as a whole from beginning to end is a very clever concept and ties everything up beautifully.  Despite the poignancy, the ending enchanted me and left me feeling satisfied that everything was as it should be.  A good feeling to finish a story on!

I would like to thank Waterstones for sending me an uncorrected proof copy for review.

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