Modern & Contemporary Fiction
Hardback Published on: 02/11/2023
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Bookseller Reviews

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A captivating novella!
John Boyne’s writing is beautiful and gripping. This is one of those books that’s hard to put down and I found myself finishing it within a few hours. It’s... READ MORE
Gemma Robb
Soul Searching
Absolutely stunning novella about one woman’s struggle to cope with a horrific situation. Imagine finding out that your husband has committed the worst cri... READ MORE
Chrys - Plymouth
Stays with you
I finished this yesterday and have been struggling to write a review that does it justice! The writing is amazing and despite being a novella and short in... READ MORE
Donna - Hemel Hempstead
Another exquisite read from Boyne.
Actual rating 4.5. No one writes quite like John Boyne and I just cannot get enough of his stories. His latest, the first in a quartet, is no different ... READ MORE
Tilly Fitzgerald
Another great read from John Boyne
The first in a quartet of novellas from John Boyne publishing six months apart is a compelling and emotional story of regret and absolution. A very satisfy... READ MORE
Ed Ripley


From million-copy-bestselling author John Boyne comes a masterfully reflective story about one woman coming to terms with the demons of her past and finding a new path forward. The first thing Vanessa Carvin does when she arrives on the island is change her name. To the locals, she is Willow Hale, a solitary outsider escaping Dublin to live a hermetic existence in a small cottage, not a notorious woman on the run from her past. But scandals follow like hunting dogs. And she has some questions of her own to answer. If her ex-husband is really the monster everyone says he is, then how complicit was she in his crimes? Escaping her old life might seem like a good idea but the choices she has made throughout her marriage have consequences. Here, on the island, Vanessa must reflect on what she did - and did not do. Only then can she discover whether she is worthy of finding peace at all. Can you ever truly wash away your past?

  • Publisher: Transworld Publishers Ltd
  • ISBN: 9780857529817
  • Number of pages: 176
  • Weight: 300g
  • Dimensions: 222 x 144 x 21 mm

Customer Reviews

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An absorbing and thought provoking book
Having read ‘The Heart’s Invisible Furies’ I was really looking forward to a new John Boyne book - and this one didn’t disappoint. Arriving on a small isl... READ MORE
Astoundingly brilliant
Vanessa Carvin arrives on an island off the coast of Ireland and her first actions are to change her name to Willow Hale and cut her hair. To the 400 islan... READ MORE
Packs a punch
5* Water by John Boyne. Wow. It may be small (at 176 pages) but it packs an incredible punch. Willow arrives on an island in the hope that she can outr... READ MORE
Nic Johnston
A powerful book
A woman arrives, alone, on an island off the Irish mainland. She almost immediately cuts off her long blonde hair off and shaves her skull leaving a grey... READ MORE
Carole Tyrrell
A difficult subject delicately handled
I've struggled with Mr Boyne's work before now simply because he always seems to write a book that brings up difficult issues. It always felt like he had t... READ MORE
A young woman has upped sticks and travelled to a remote island. The first thing she does on landing is change her name. Willow Hale does not come with the... READ MORE
The opening novella in Boyne’s Elements Quartet
“Water has been the undoing of me. It has been the undoing of my family. We swim in it in the womb. We are composed of it. We drink it. We are drawn to it ... READ MORE
Vivienne O'Regan
Thank you to the publishers for this early review copy, I can confirm it is simply superb! Great storyline, wonderful characters! Water features in this st... READ MORE
Fiona Sharp
A short read that certainly packs a punch.
Water is a novella by award-winning, best-selling Irish author, John Boyne. Not long after her husband Brendan is put in Midlands Prison, and with many peo... READ MORE
Marianne Vincent
A short read that certainly packs a punch.
Water is a novella by award-winning, best-selling Irish author, John Boyne. Not long after her husband Brendan is put in Midlands Prison, and with many peo... READ MORE
Marianne Vincent
A Wonderful Story
Upon arriving on a small Irish island, Vanessa Carvin changes her name to Willow Hale. Wanting to escape the media furore that has been following her, she ... READ MORE
Barnsey's Books
A moving story of change, acceptance and renewal.
Water is the first in a series of four individual stories with different narrators, which will comprise a literary quartet of Water, Fire, Earth and Air wh... READ MORE
Mary Picken
Well written and thought provoking
A woman arrives on a small island off the coast of Ireland, where she immediately changes her name and takes steps to ensure her appearance is radically al... READ MORE
Andrew Smith
A very good read.
This is a short, quick read but I highly recommend. Set in Ireland, the theme centres around the loss of a child, although there are touches of humour thro... READ MORE
Martha Brindley
Packs a punch
Water by John Boyne is a short novella, but boy does it pack a punch. Vanessa Carvin arrives on the small island of the coast of Ireland and rents a cotta... READ MORE
Michelle De Alwis
A short novella packing a hefty emotional load
A short novella but packing a hefty emotional load, Water is the story of a woman, mother and wife who moves to a small island from Ireland in order to rev... READ MORE
Daren Kearl
Absolutely brilliant!
Always love a John Boyne book and this was no exception. A wonderful writing style which kept me captivated from start to finish.
Lorraine Joad
Great Read
The first thing Vanessa Carvin does when she arrives on the island is change her name. To the locals, she is Willow Hale, a solitary outsider escaping Dubl... READ MORE
steve cripwell
a perfect little book!
A perfect little book. No words are wasted and yet the author manages to weave a tapestry of good and bad lives lived and lost, secrets kept and shared and... READ MORE
Beautifully written and emotionally charged
An unusually short novel from John Boyne but written with the same emotional intensity and thought provoking honesty as his longer works. After a scandal ... READ MORE
Alyson Hilbourne
Brilliant read
I’m not sure how the author does it but he blows me away with his writing every time, and with every book I love his writing that little bit more. When yo... READ MORE
Lynne Packer
Powerful and thought provoking - strongly recommended
A new John Boyne is always worthy of anticipation and curiosity; a consummate story teller who manages to pull us into the depths of his characters whilst... READ MORE
Stephen - the bookworm
Superb - my book of the year
Water is a beautiful short novel centred on a woman moving to a small island looking for anonymity and for an understanding of how her life has fallen apar... READ MORE
Irene Mitchell
Powerful and challenging
Is Vanessa guilty or an accomplice? A wonderful character, torn and hiding from her previous life. Powerful , challenging and beautifully written short nov... READ MORE
Chiara Cc
Proves a book doesn't have to be lengthy to pack a huge emotional punch
Making an attempt to escape both physically and mentally from her life, Vanessa Carvin moves to a remote Irish island and becomes Willow Hale. Perfectl... READ MORE
Fran McBookface
There's a Scottish saying “guid gear comes in sma' bulk” which means good things come in small packages. It seems very appropriate here. Water is a sho... READ MORE
A though provoking tale of finding ones self
I didn't quite know where this book was going to go at the star, but that soon resolved into a tale of self discovery and their th.. Following the distance... READ MORE
John Davies
One woman’s struggle to overcome her husbands catastrophic and unforgivable treachery
A troubled aftermath of one woman’s struggle to survive the guilt and shame from her husband’s unforgivable treachery through self inflicted Isolation, sol... READ MORE
George  Young
Dive right in
Water is a novella rather than a novel, and it sits at about 180 pages so it is quite a quick read. Despite it’s brevity it packs quite a bit in. From page... READ MORE
James Tormey
Over far too soon. A cracking read.
The only disappointing thing about this book was it was over to soon. It is a short book more a novella and for some reason probably having read a number o... READ MORE
Beverley Cole
Water by John Boyne
Water sustains. Water destroys. In this riveting novella John Boyne tells the story of Vanessa Carvin who is in desperate need of time, distance and spa... READ MORE
Jane Scott
Another excellent book from John Boyne
Fifty-two year old Vanessa Carvin arrives on a small island off the Galway coast having fled from Dublin after her husband, Brendan, of twenty-eight years ... READ MORE
Val Robson
A beautifully composed exploration of one middle aged woman’s seriously incapacitating moral predicament.
‘Water’ is a beautifully composed exploration of one middle aged woman’s seriously incapacitating moral predicament. To what extent is she responsible for... READ MORE
Sarah D
Thought Provoking Short Novel
‘Water is the cruelest of the elements and will swallow up anyone who challenges it’ This thought provoking short novel from John Boyne begins with Vane... READ MORE
Jill Thomson
Beautifully written
Beautifully written novella following a woman seeking solace from the infamy of her husband’s crimes. Authentic characters and astute dialogue. Particularl... READ MORE
Rachel Dixon
I can’t fault John Boyne’s writing - his empathy and his seemingly effortless ability to convey emotion in just a few words. A sad, sad story of loss and ... READ MORE
One of the best writers working today
This is a short novel but it gripped me from the first page and from there I just couldn't put it down. The story begins with the arrival of a woman on a s... READ MORE
A master at work
I really enjoyed this and read it in one sitting, fully immersed in the tale. It's a simple enough story, and wisely not complicated by unnecessary sub plo... READ MORE
Chris Woods
Another first-class read from John Boyne
I’m not usually a fan of short novels or novellas but trust John Boyne to challenge my prejudices. It's no real surprise that this is one of the few under ... READ MORE
Phil Ramage
A wonderful novel
I'm a big fan of John Boyne's books and I loved reading Water. I thought it was a wonderful novel. I enjoyed reading the story of the main character, and h... READ MORE
Reading Frog
Incredible and Intense!
Water by John Boyne I give this book 5 stars This is the first in a interlinked novel quartet named after the elements……Water,Earth,Fire and Air. T... READ MORE
Another enthralling John Boyne
As ever, another enthralling read from John Boyne, tackling a very dark subject. It‘s only a short read and, whilst this means it packs a heavy punch, I... READ MORE
Superb writing and uncompromising and thought-provoking story
Water is the first in a set of four novellas, each one focused around one of the elements. It is no less hard-hitting for its brevity. Vanessa Carvin trave... READ MORE
A woman’s search for inner peace
Water by John Boyne Vanessa, a mother and wife, lands on an island off the Irish coast, to assess a sea of troubles that have beset her previously secur... READ MORE
Jonathan  Kaye