Book review: Sheerwater by Leah Swann

Wednesday, March 25, 2020 Permalink

I’d not read any of Leah Swann’s books when I picked up her new release Sheerwater, so wasn’t sure what to expect.

But her writing is exquisite. Beautiful, elegant and lyrical. From the first page I was enchanted by the way she wound words together. Smitten.

Book review: Sheerwater by Leah SwannSheerwater
by Leah Swann
Published by HarperCollins - AU
on 20/03/2020
Source: Harper Collins
Genres: Thriller / Suspense
ISBN: 1460758633
Pages: 320

Ava and her two young sons, Max and Teddy, are driving to their new home in Sheerwater, hopeful of making a fresh start in a new town, although Ava can't help but keep looking over her shoulder.

They're almost at their destination when they witness a shocking accident - a light plane crashing in the field next to the road. Ava stops to help, but when she gets back to the car, she realises that somehow, among the smoke, fire and confusion, her sons have gone missing ...

I’ve talked recently about my reticence towards books about parents and parenting – good vs bad. Divorce, domestic violence etc. It all feels a bit overdone lately. (Particularly as a non-parent.)

Thankfully Swann kicks things off differently here and drops us into the middle of the action. Ava’s finally lost someone who’s been tailgating her when she witnesses the plane crash and pulls over to help… giving her 9yr old strict instructions to stay in the car and watch his 4yr old brother.

I don’t want to spoil the book so won’t say much about the crash’s relationship to the rest of the story; but later when Ava’s wishing things had been different and she hadn’t come across the accident, we wonder if the boys’ disappearance was orchestrated or merely happenstance.

We have several narrators – Ava and her ex-husband Laurence as well as her oldest son Max and and another man Simon, who helps after the plane crash.

We learn more about Ava and Laurence’s relationship from both of them, but realise both can’t be telling the truth. Their relationship is a fraught one and the police investigating the boys’ disappearance are similarly frustrated by the he said / she said stories and allegations.

They both however reveal a relationship initially built on love—the word devotion is used often—but also obsession. One fraught with gaslighting and suspicion.

I probably felt this book (which is quite short) rushed to its conclusion a little. It seemed a lot of time was spent giving us backstory and moving us to the precipice but, suddenly—in a flurry of action—it’s over and I didn’t quite have the time I needed to understand, process or absorb what happens. In many ways it’s shocking. Devastating. But it could have been more-so.

The strength of this novel is Swann’s both poignant and powerful writing. She effortlessly throws around words to offer up eloquent descriptions of the book’s setting as well as forcing us to consider complex themes:

Photos make the past consumable. They’re kind’ve like the corpses of yesterday. They make you nostalgic. But they don’t bring anything back. p 38

Sheerwater by Leah Swann was published in Australia by Harper Collins and is now available.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.


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