Review: OUR WIVES UNDER THE SEA by Julia Armfield (2022)

Genre: Adult Literary Horror
Year Release: 2022
Source: Physical Copy

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Trigger warning: eye trauma, death of a parent (both parents discussed in different scenarios), claustrophobia, blood

Leah is a marine researcher. Miri is her work from home wife. Leah went missing for a bit after going on a deep sea dive. She returns, but Miri worries when she starts spending more time in the bath and becomes something other than human.

Haunting with beautiful prose that led me to excessively mark up my copy, this literary horror moves deftly from quiet melancholy to straight-up nightmare fuel when a wife returns, but did she really?

The prose has the reader riding on highs and lows much like being on the open water. There’s a very ordinary sadness of realizing your partner isn’t the same person as before the trip, or that perhaps you never knew her at all. But there’s also some very real horror. The sequences when we’re with Leah in the submarine disconnected from the world are genuinely terrifying. There’s claustrophobia and isolation, a perfect combination for maximize the scars.

But I also enjoy how the ocean serves as both a thematic motif plus the structure of the book. It permeates the interiority and the external narration, as we follow Miri down into the mad depths that have claimed Leah. It’s really effective, and the vocabulary throughout makes the sea another character, even though it doesn’t overtly antagonize our narrators.

If you want something that feels gothic despite the unequivocally modern setting, definitely give this married lesbian literary novel a read.

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One thought on “Review: OUR WIVES UNDER THE SEA by Julia Armfield (2022)

  1. Pingback: August 2022 Reading Recap | Jo Writes Fantasy

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