CASTLE OF WATER BY DANE HUCKELBRIDGE
Published: 2017 by St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Literary Fiction
My Rating: 5/5 Stars
I was sent a copy of this absolutely gorgeous book from the author, and honestly I am so glad that he sent it my way. I’m not sure this is one I would have picked up off the shelf. It sounds good from the blurb, but what could be new about a castaway story, with a man and a woman stranded on an island together? I likely would have passed it by… and I would have missed out on what is probably going to be one of my favorite books of the year. Honestly, the more I think back on this one the more and more I like it. I had originally rated it with 4.5 stars… and I honestly can’t remember why. It’s now a full 5 stars in my head, and I’m already ready to reread it (did I just come up with a new tongue-twister?). It was original and beautiful and so, so well-written. It’s funny (so funny, it had me laughing out loud in places), it’s heartbreaking (literally… I was just a big ol’ puddle of tears), and it’s an uplifting and original story about the power of love.
And so it came to pass that two utterly disparate lives happened to overlap: a young architect from Paris’s tenth arrondissement, prematurely widowed at age twenty-eight, and a relatively young banker from Manhattan’s Upper East Side, prematurely retired at age thirty-four, bound together on an uninhabited island some 2,359 miles from Hawaii, 4,622 miles from Chile, and 533 miles from the nearest living soul.
Crap, as Barry liked to say.
Putain de merde, as Sophie was known to exclaim.
I was impressed from the very first page by the beauty in the prose. Huckelbridge’s use of language (both English and French!) is excellent. It’s poetic and beautiful and I found myself rereading passages just to enjoy the beautiful words over again. The story is told in the most perfect perspective. Third person, and with both a distance and intimacy that left me feeling as though I had watched all this happening from above, and yet I knew both Barry and Sophie deeply. I’m not sure exactly how to explain what I mean here… I can’t think of another book with which to compare this narrative. It was unique to this story in the best possible way.
Going into this book, I think I expected it to be somewhat cliché… What can you make new about a story with two people stranded on an island? Somehow, Dane Huckelbridge managed to do it. Nothing about this story felt cliché. It felt real and believable, in ways that surprised and impressed me. I completely fell for these characters, and, strangely enough, for the tiny island they made home.
I think one of my favorite things (okay, I say favorite, but honestly I have a lot of favorite things, so bear with me) about this book were the little asides. The little times where the narrator takes a moment to tell us about the only other people who ever knew about the island, or when we learn about the artists that brought our main characters to the island in the first place. These little breaks in the story were unexpected and lovely.
I might have been just a little bit skeptical at the beginning about the “present day” chapters. Sometimes they can be jarring and I don’t want for the ending to be given away. But these flashes forward in time were perfect. They made the story itself even more powerful, and in a way prepared me for the ending (as prepared as I could be anyway).
If I continue on, I’ll just keep gushing. There are so many things about this book that I adored. It surprised me repeatedly and I have a feeling it will do the same thing again whenever I reread it. If you haven’t read this book yet, do yourself a favor and pick it up immediately. If you have read this book, come talk to me about it! I’d love to hear if you were as in love with it as I was. ❤