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Monday, 25 July 2016

‘Black Water’ by Louise Doughty

Published by Faber & Faber,
2 June 2016.
ISBN: 978-0-32355-5 (HB)

Louise Doughty has done it again – written a novel that is totally different to her previous seven (She has also written non-fiction book – A Novel in a Year…highly recommended) and yet just as compelling. I tell everyone I can about Apple Tree Yard, I will be doing the same for her latest offering.

Black Water is an emotionally fraught thriller that moves between Cold War Europe, the Civil Rights era in California, and Indonesia during the massacres of 1965 and the military dictatorship that followed. In the morally complex book Louise Doughty explores race, grief, the family and politics.

John Harper is haunted by the brutal actions he committed as a sometime mercenary. The beginning of Black Water finds him holed up in a remote hut on a tropical island listening to the sound of ghekkoes and rain on the roof. He thinks he is in danger, but he is more afraid of what he has done in the past than what’s going to happen in the future. He meets Rita in a local town – a woman who has her own demons to fight. They cautiously begin an affair. Can the two of them find comfort and redemption in each other?

Louise Doughty is so good at building the tension in her novels deliciously slowly and quietly, teasing the reader, and Black Water is no different. Through flashbacks, and not necessarily in order, we are able to piece together Harper’s past and the source of his guilt.

We go from his unconventional and traumatic birth, through his unusual upbringing and onto the part he plays in the Jakarta uprising in 1965 (of which I had very little knowledge) and see how the effects from these events ripple through the rest of his life. The bad things people inflict upon one another and how they justify them to themselves and others is a theme that runs through the book. Powerful and gripping, Black Water will resonate with me for some time to come.
Reviewer: Mary-Jane Riley

Louise Doughty was born in Melton Mowbray and grew up in Rutland. She is an alumna of Leeds University and of the University of East Anglia's Creative Writing Course, headed by Malcolm Bradbury and Angela Carter. In 2006, Doughty contributed a weekly column to The Daily Telegraph inviting readers to write a Novel in a Year, and the following year a weekly column on the life of a writer entitled "A Writer's Year". Doughty has also presented radio programmes for the BBC on literature, and was a judge for the 2008 Man Booker Prize. She also writes radio plays. She lives in London.

Mary-Jane Riley wrote her first story on her newly acquired blue Petite typewriter. She was eight. It was about a gang of children who had adventures on mysterious islands, but she soon realised Enid Blyton had cornered that particular market. So she wrote about the Wild West instead. When she grew up she had to earn a living, and became a BBC radio talk show presenter and journalist. She has covered many life-affirming stories, but also some of the darkest events of the past two decades.
Then, in true journalistic style, she decided not to let the facts get in the way of a good story and got creative. She wrote for women's magazines and small presses. She formed WriteOutLoud with two writer friends to help charities get their message across using their life stories. Now she is writing psychological suspense, drawing on her experiences in journalism.
The Bad Things by Mary-Jane Riley was published by Harper Collins/Killer Reads. Her second book, After She Fell, also published by Killer Reads, is out on April 28th.
In her spare time Mary-Jane likes to walk the dog and eat a lot. Good job she likes walking.

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