#20BooksOfSummer 16: Deep Water by Lu Hersey

#20BooksOfSummer is an annual event hosted by Cathy Brown of 746 Books and runs from 3rd June until 3rd September With the aim to clearing a target of 5, 10 or 20 books from your TBR but with very relaxed and fun rules.

Here is my joining post & List!

Book cover for Deep Water
Cover design: composite design using photography by Stelian Porojnicu/Alamy; Johan Swanepoel/ Alamy; Sergei Orlov/Shutterstock & Dmitry Laudin/Shutterstock

Deep Water is exactly the kind of book I would have devoured over and over again as a tween/teen had it been around then. The Cornish setting evoking our holidays around Bodmin, the crackling atmosphere of places and people that have not forgotten the Old Ways and a deep sense of magic and myth that reaches into the marrow of our humanity, the stories and dreaming that binds us across time and resonates in the souls of those who can hear its whisper.

This is a 11+/teen novel that okay some would find a bit ‘weird’ but for those of us who are the weirdos (mister) it is like coming home which is why it’s such a shame it’s currently out of print.

With the interest in alternative spirituality resurgent and rebranded with positivity and empowerment in young girls and women, I’m shocked that Usborne hasn’t reissued or at the very least reprinted this to capitalise.

Cornish Mythology
Folk Magic
Hidden Powers
Missing Mum

One cold rainy night 15 year old Danni’s mum just doesn’t come home kicking off a spiral of events that leads her to staying with her estranged dad in Cornwall and falling hard for Elliot who works in her dad’s shop at weekends. However, some locals including Elliot’s aunt takes an venomous dislike to Danni and it seems there is a hidden past around the villages that no one wants to speak about.

When her mother is located in a hospital in a state of amnesia and screaming for her own mother having been found on a local beach, Danni wonders what brought her mother to Cornwall, to the sea and starts to uncover a history, a family and a heritage that has been hidden her whole life- and especially discovering why water has started pouring from her hands.

I check my hands and stare at them in dismay. Water is welling up out of the lines in my palms. I can see it happening. I must be hallucinating.

Intensely atmospheric in both tone and plot it has a classic novel feeling of the unwanted stranger coming into a town and the secrets and lies whirling around their footsteps kicking up history and mysteries that should remain untouched and unspoken.

However it also has a wonderful fresh and modern touch completely embedded in the 21st century but within this undulating West Country heritage of a land where myth and magic survive and thrive against the mundane of the modern world.

There’s a constant feeling of unsettled and secrets and lies throughout, from her father’s reluctance to be anywhere near her mum’s house, even her hospital bed this coupled with reluctance to talk about the history of the chapel in Ancrows and the legacy adds to a sense of foreboding and a veil between Danni’s crumbling world and that of others.

a middle aged woman answers…She stares at us in horror, then crosses herself quickly.
“What are you doing here? We don’t mix with you people.”

This coupled with the heritage of the Old Ways or traditional folklore and witchcraft has a resonance of the first half of the film The Wicker Man, where there is riddles and silence from many but an immersion in alternative and folksy ways: but luckily there is no malicious plans for devout Christian policemen in this novel. However there is a threat from a disgraced minister hellbent on stamping out the magic in the land like a reincarnation of Mathew Hopkins stomping across the landscape.

The earthy magic and craft featured has been thoughtfully and sparingly threaded through and carefully researched using folklore tradition and historical evidence. I was personally delighted to see reference to the Boscastle Museum Of Witchcraft and Magic and the name Marion Green thanked in the acknowledgements.

“Listen well. When thing aren’t going too good, untie one of these here knots. The wind’ll change for yer. The last knot, he’s the strongest. That’s for when youse in real trouble.”

Whilst the reader may be ahead of Danni in uncovering the terrible plans thanks to seeded paths and threaded hints, there are plenty of red herrings and double feints to make the imagination run away in different directions.

I love that sense of distortion, of confusion as Danni spends more time in Cornwall and with people kept from her by her mother she emerges from a fog of unknowing her whole life to a place of power and knowing, stronger and braver than the girl she was before and we must witness this journey and her struggles in order to appreciate the person she will become.

Gosh, this book is just so magical and wonderful, I really want to see more books like this as I know it would speak to so many with a wild spirit and alternative soul like my girls. Yet, at the same time it has enough grounding and is a wonderful coming of age story that speaks of the ways that sometimes mistakes are made out of love and a desire to protect.

Deep Water by Lu Hersey was published by Usborne- I managed to get a second hand version but I thoroughly believe this deserves a proper reissue!

Also… great choice on the name for the main character and her love interest ☺️

7 thoughts on “#20BooksOfSummer 16: Deep Water by Lu Hersey

    1. Yes, more than likely. It was only you’re ‘we are the weirdos mister’ quote that brought it back and I’d completely forgotten about that til you said (wrote) it!

      Liked by 1 person

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