Our Wives Under The Sea is a promising, bold, gothic novel from the author of Salt Slow, Julia Armfield. The premise, the creepiness and the author quotes heightened my anticipation, raising the bar for my expectations. Armfield delivers a somewhat contemporary sea-faring fairy tale with much to beguile, while creating an aloofness to both main characters, Miri and Leah. However, the prioritisation of language to character had sunk my interest with each chapter, and by the end I was left unaffected and disappointed.
After a deep-sea mission that ended in catastrophe, Leah eventually returns to her wife, Miri. It soon becomes clear, though, that Leah has been devastatingly affected by the experience, having a lasting effect on the dynamics of the relationship. Whatever happened in that vessel, Leah has brought part of it back with her, into their home. Though Leah is still physically there, Miri can sense that the woman she loves is not securely in her grasp.
As a debut novel there is potential from this writer, as an intriguing tale that’s one of love, loss, grief, and the horror of what the sea might pull from our lives. With prose such as this, there is scope to fall in love with Armfield’s books yet; I just need more from the characters.
Our Wives Under The Sea was published by Picador on 3rd March 2022