The Well by Catherine Chanter

Book Review by Chris Lynch | 03 Mar 2015
Book title: The Well
Author: Catherine Chanter

The Well opens with a woman under house arrest. Ruth, our protagonist and narrator, is restricted to her farm in Wales. Named The Well, it is beautiful, lonely, and one of the few places left on earth to still feel rain. This is a world after ours, steeped in loss. The rain has gone, as has optimism and any planning beyond survival. The state is self-imploding, and desperate new religions are springing up. It's sci-fi, but with a very soft accent on the sci – nobody knows why the world is drying up, yet this drought is not just window dressing, but thematically crucial. A thirst for connection, revenge, and for answers haunts this world, this farm and our cast.

Cartherine Chanter’s debut is superb: frighteningly assured, its themes are deftly tied together and it manages to maintain real suspense within a story which could easily have faltered. Its treatment of grief and anger – at a world dying, at the vicious dissolution of a marriage – and of the fear of one’s own inner darkness is so realistically drawn that it would threaten to overwhelm without the focus that Chanter brings. Chiefly we find this focus within ithe central mystery, the solving of which could help alleviate Ruth’s loss. Imprisoned as Ruth is though, her memories become the landscape of this dark and haunting detective story.

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Out 5 March, published by Canongate, RRP £12.99