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  • ★★★-3.25

Review: Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield (Spoiler-Free)

I used to imagine the sea as something that seethed and then quieted, a froth of activity tapering down into the dark and still. I know now that this isn't how it goes, that things beneath the surface are what have to move and change to cause the chain reaction higher up.

You know that moment underwater? That serene sense of suspension, total isolation, complete bliss. How it feels limitless, but in reality is defined by the finite number of seconds you can hold your breath.

This book places you there. It submerges you in the waves and your only job under them is observation. Eventually, when the time comes, you have to come up for air. And it's finished.

I don't know how Julia Armfield did it, but this entire novel feels like a fight against oceanic depths. It's short and quiet, but so big. It shows how loss has the power to drown, how there are forces of higher power to which we must bend.

I'm still trying to find my perfect ocean horror (this story leans more speculative), but this was a good pit stop on my journey. If you appreciated the hazy murk of the water and the foreboding sense (and hope?) that something was living, hidden behind all that darkness, you absolutely need to read Josh Malerman's A House at the Bottom of a Lake. That would totally be my favorite ocean horror except, as you can tell by the title, it technically takes place in a lake.


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