Our Wives Under the Sea

Julia Armfield

Our Wives Under the Sea
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Our Wives Under the Sea

Julia Armfield

Miri thinks she has got her wife back, when Leah finally returns after a deep sea mission that ended in catastrophe. It soon becomes clear, though, that Leah may have come back wrong. Whatever happened in that vessel, whatever it was they were supposed to be studying before they were stranded on the ocean floor, Leah has carried part of it with her, onto dry land and into their home.

To have the woman she loves back should mean a return to normal life, but Miri can feel Leah slipping from her grasp. Memories of what they had before - the jokes they shared, the films they watched, all the small things that made Leah hers - only remind Miri of what she stands to lose. Living in the same space but suddenly separate, Miri comes to realize that the life that they had might be gone.

Our Wives Under the Sea is the debut novel from the critically acclaimed author of salt slow. It’s a story of falling in love, loss, grief, and what life there is in the deep, deep sea.

Review

‘“What you have to understand,” she says “is that things can thrive in unimaginable conditions. All they need is the right sort of skin.”’

I first encountered Julia Armfield’s enormous aptitude for storytelling when I read her short story ‘The Great Awake’, which won The White Review Short Story Prize in 2018. Her 2019 debut collection of short stories, Salt, Slow, confirmed that here was a writer capable of extraordinary things. Armfield’s great gift lies in her ability to convince her reader that the bizarre, strange, gothic imaginings on the page before them could absolutely happen in the real world. So vivid are her stories, so fully realised are her characters, one can’t help but willingly suspend any and all disbelief and let oneself sink into her world as easily as one might sink into a warm bath – or slip below the waves, deep into the sea.

Our Wives Under the Sea is one of the most anticipated novels of 2022, and from the very first page, it is clear why. Part horror story, all love story, Our Wives Under the Sea tells the tale of married couple Miri and Leah. Leah has returned to Miri after a deep-sea mission went devastatingly wrong. Miri is overjoyed to have her wife returned to her, except Leah is different now. Very, very different.

It is near impossible to talk about this magical, grotesque, beautiful book without spoiling the plot for someone who has yet to read it. I say yet to read it because it is my belief that everyone should read it. Not since Angela Carter or Sonya Hartnett have I been so captivated or fascinated by a writer. Armfield has exactly the ‘right sort of skin’ in which the most fantastical and marvellous of stories can thrive.


Tye Cattanach is a bookseller at Readings Carlton.

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