Our Wives Under The Sea

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Pub Date 3 Mar 2022 | Archive Date 4 Mar 2022

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Named as book to look out for in 2022 by Guardian, i-D, Autostraddle, Bustle, Good Housekeeping, Stylist and DAZED.

Miri thinks she has got her wife back, when Leah finally returns after a deep sea mission that ended in catastrophe. It soon becomes clear, though, that Leah may have come back wrong. Whatever happened in that vessel, whatever it was they were supposed to be studying before they were stranded on the ocean floor, Leah has carried part of it with her, onto dry land and into their home.

To have the woman she loves back should mean a return to normal life, but Miri can feel Leah slipping from her grasp. Memories of what they had before – the jokes they shared, the films they watched, all the small things that made Leah hers – only remind Miri of what she stands to lose. Living in the same space but suddenly separate, Miri comes to realize that the life that they had might be gone.

Our Wives Under The Sea is the debut novel from the critically acclaimed author of salt slow. It’s a story of falling in love, loss, grief, and what life there is in the deep, deep sea.

'Part bruisingly tender love story, part nerve-clanging submarine thriller . . . heart-slicing, cinematic.' - The Times

Named as book to look out for in 2022 by Guardian, i-D, Autostraddle, Bustle, Good Housekeeping, Stylist and DAZED.

Miri thinks she has got her wife back, when Leah finally returns after a deep sea...

Advance Praise

'A wonderful novel, deeply romantic and fabulously strange. I loved this book.' Sarah Waters

'A contemporary gothic fairy tale, sublime in its creepiness.' Florence Welch

'Moves fluidly between horror story and love story, the gorgeous and the grotesque' Florench Welch

'Beautiful, otherworldly, like floating through water with your eyes open.' Daisy Johnson

'A strange, unnerving novel. A beautiful, lyrically written elegy.' Neel Mukherjee

'Like diving into the deepest depths of the ocean and finding beautiful and disturbing wonders.' Kirsty Logan

'Tender, strange, lucid and so assured. Kiran Millwood Hargrave

'Spooky and romantic: a gorgeous, lyrical novel that gets under your skin.' Sarvat Hasin

'A tale of the sea that swallows you whole and breaks your heart in the very best way.' Kristen Arnett

'A wonderful novel, deeply romantic and fabulously strange. I loved this book.' Sarah Waters

'A contemporary gothic fairy tale, sublime in its creepiness.' Florence Welch

'Moves fluidly between horror...

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ISBN 9781529017236
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Featured Reviews

I found this book both haunting and lovely. The Sarah Waters blurb is apt, as the writing reminded me a lot of hers. The depiction of grief is very moving, and I was so invested in Miri and Leah’s relationship even as it seemed to be disintegrating. This book has cemented me as a fan of Armfield’s.

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Beautiful, creepy, devastating. Truly one of the best literary horror novels I’ve read, and the answer to decades of begging for good gay horror.

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I read this book in one setting - I couldn't leave it down. It's such a joy to read a book that is different. As a voracious reader I go through periods where I find many books blend into one. But Our Wives Under the Sea will not. This book will stay with me for a long time. Julia Armfield's writing is effortlessly superb and flows like water.!
At times I felt as though I was in the submarine, it was both claustrophobic and ominous and yet Leah's thoughts of Miri and their relationship somehow allows pockets of air into the stultified environment.
Their relationship is so real, I feel I know them. Leah's gradual wasting away is so beautifully described that it's easy to forget this is not a normal illness.
I loved every part of this book and strongly recommend it.

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Wow, wow, wow! I knew when I read Salt Slow that Julia Armfield was an explosive talent, but nothing would have prepared me for how brilliant this debut novel is. Beautifully written - strange, lovely, sad, scary, and funny in equal parts - and with such a bravely-executed, fresh perspective. I loved how it sits between genres, floating between styles. Armfield particularly captures the difficulties and joys of relationships, with a partner, with friends, with strangers, and - perhaps most strikingly of all here for me - with parents, with such nuance. This brilliant observational talent is used to varying effect throughout: devastating and full of good humour, sometimes at the the same time.

Perhaps a strange comparison, but those who found themselves addicted to BBC's Vigil for its claustrophobic nautical setting, high-tension, and powerful over-arching love story should reach for this literary debut right away.

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Miri is used to her wife Leah, a marine researcher, going on deep sea missions as part of her job. This time, though Leah returned months later than originally scheduled after the expedition has gone catastrophically wrong and it becomes quickly apparent that the Leah who returned, isn't the same person who left.

Leah is extremely withdrawn and spends much of her time in the bath, drinking salted water.

This dual perspective novel is in part a sapphic love story with Miri telling the present day story of Leah's return and recounting the back story of their relationship and marriage. Miri is keen to help Leah recover but each day sees a little more of her slipping out of her grasp.

The chapters that are told from Leah's perspective focus on the deep sea mission and what happened to them when they were stranded on the ocean floor for months. There is a constant seen of claustrophobia and foreboding in those scenes in the submarine and that part whatever they encountered in their deep sea mission has resurfaced in Leah.

This is a beautiful gothic novel of love, loss and grief and the secrets that lie hidden in the depths of the sea.

Huge thank you to @netgalley and @panmacmillian for this ARC. This is definitely one that I will want to pick up a copy on publication day of March 3rd!

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I absolutely loved this book. It was creepy, tender and beautifully written, I fell in love with Leah and Miri’s love story and spent days wandering around thinking about the deep sea. I can’t wait to read it again when it comes out.

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One of my most highly anticipated reads and it did not disappoint. Much like her short story collection, salt slow, Julia Armfield's first novel is exquisitely written with beautiful, precise prose that makes you want to cry with how good it is, and also has a strange and compelling narrative. Our Wives Under the Sea is a haunting, lyrical horror story. Leah went on a research trip on a submarine that went horribly wrong and when she returns to her wife Miri, she's a different person, scaring Miri and causing her to confront her grief about her dead mother. It's smart and chilling and sad - I want to read it all over again.

Thank you to Picador for the ARC.

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Really enjoyed this book. It has a great mystery at its heart which keeps the plot moving at a good pace, and a tender and beautiful depiction of a relationship at its core which, for me personally, was the most captivating part.

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i read and loved salt slow by julia armfield last year and i was very excited to read her first full length novel. following two women and their marriage after one of them returns from a submarine trip that went wrong, it's a slow unwinding of how they both cope with the event, how their lives do and don't work now, and what horrors might be lurking under the surface

i really liked the direction this book took, i had no idea where it might be going and there was something so intriguing and beautiful about the writing that i just couldn't stop reading

i've watched a loooot of horror films recently and yet the images in this book have stuck with me and haunted me more

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Our Wives Under the Sea is easily the best fiction I’ve read for a few months. I really adored Salt Slow and have been very much looking forward to Julia Armfield’s first novel – I was relieved to find that this was easily as absorbing as I’d been hoping for.

It’s a creepy, haunting, twisting story about the sea and love. Julia’s writing is consistently lyrical and mesmerising, and I was really impressed with the way the narrative dealt with grief and that sense of aching loss. The novel opened up so many speculative strands that I reached the end of it with more questions than I started with, but I loved wandering down these threads and found myself easily trusting that the novel knew where it was going. I'm still finding some of the imagery and phrases running through my head a few days after finishing it.

I’ll definitely be pre-ordering (the cover of the physical edition looks beautiful) and am already looking forward to slowly reading through it again.

(Massive thanks to Picador and NetGalley for the e-ARC!)

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I absolutely loved this book, such a page-turner, heart-warming and terrifying at the same time!
I really enjoyed how Armfield craftily interweaves Miri's loving, realistic and intimate memories of her wife before her mysterious trip with Leah's recollections of what actually happened under the sea.
This supernatural novel is a tight-paced tale of the many facets and expressions of unconditional love and the sense of loss when your favourite person changes in front of your eyes.
I'll recommend it to everyone I talk books with!

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Wow how to describe this book!

I didn’t know what to expect from this book and I didn’t expect it to literally be about… wives being under the sea.

I loved Julia Armfield’s short story collection Salt Slow so I’d been so excited for her first novel.

Our Wives Under the Sea is told from the perspectives of Miri, after her wife Leah comes back from a submarine exploration gone wrong. It’s also interspersed with chapters from Leah’s diary on board the submarine.

This book is beautiful, deeply moving, incredible real yet wonderfully mythic. I found myself so connected to Miri, who is so well-realised.

Is it a fairy tale? Horror? Fantasy? Whatever genre is it wonderfully dark and atmospheric. I loved it

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Miri has been waiting for her wife Leah to return from her subaquatic mission that has gone on much to long. When she does come back, she is different, changed by her time beneath the sea. This haunting book is many things: a meditation on loss and letting go; a love story, all in an almost gothic frame that touches on realism then moves adjacent to it. Memorable, sad and orIginal.

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I don't know how to formulate the words for this - I might come back and write more when I've had time to think. Our Wives Under the Sea is beautifully written - the prose is gorgeous, and the tone changes between points of view are clear and match the characters perfectly. Miri and Leah are both wonderfully fleshed out - they continuously felt real, even as the events depicted became less so. I was utterly engrossed by this, and read the whole thing in under 24 hours - I've seen other reviews say to try and immerse yourself totally, and read this in one session, and I think that's sound advice.
This was a beautiful and haunting book - I'll be thinking about it for a long time, and can see a re-read happening soon.

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🌊Our Wives Under The Sea by Julia Armfield🌊
Publication Date: 03/03/2022
Score: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Spoiler Free Review:
I am absolutely in love with this book!
The story follows Miri and Leah’s relationship after Leah returns from a deep sea expedition. However, she’s not the same as she was before she left, and Miri struggles to cope with this new version of her wife and the mystery of what has happened to her.
I loved the split narrative of this novel and felt equally invested in both Miri and Leah’s story.
I don’t want to give too many details away about plot but the premise alone had me hooked! (How many books do you see about submarines and deep sea exploration?!)
I haven’t read any of Armfield’s writing before but there were so many genuinely beautiful moments. This book is equally full of romance and mystery - much like the ocean’s depths themselves.
I cannot wait for this book to come out, I’m itching to get my hands on a physical copy to add to my bookshelf.
I think this book is a very strong contender for my favourite book of the year!

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This book is really amazing, one of my favourites of this year. I read her collection of short stories previously and absolutely loved it, so I was quite excited to read this novel and it certainly did not disappoint. I love the relationship between the main characters and the weird fablelike aspects of the narrative. I will definitely recommend this book.

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I tore through this book in a few days and enjoyed every moment. This book slowly creeps up on you and leaves you returning to it and its characters long after the end. A creepy, quietly devastating story about love and loss, told deftly and with a light touch.

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I've had a hard time with literary fiction in the past few years. I've struggled with its theme and language, tending to think it pretentious and flowery, and thinking maybe it's just not the genre for me anymore.

But then comes along Our Wives Under the Sea. It is a devastating and beautiful novella, that starts deceptively simple, a relationship under strain after one partner returns home from a mission much later than they were supposed to. But it emerges into something much more mysterious.

The character work is lovely, with Miri and Leah distinct and flawed, both with their own baggage. The language is poetic and confident, but it does not make the fatal error of piling metaphor on metaphor, nor trying to be too lyrical. It shifts its genres deftly, but without losing its identity. And while some of the twists can be seen coming, it never does fully resolve the mystery of what happened down in the deep.

Thanks to NetGalley and Pan Macmillan for a free copy of this book.

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Rating: 5/5

This is the lesbian cosmic-aquatic horror I never knew was missing from my life. I think I might be head over heels in love. (Spoiler warning.)

The prose is fluid, soft and grieving one moment and overwhelmingly forceful the next. Her command over language is beautiful. Not one page in and I was already mesmerized. A line of tension draws throughout the novel, inching forward slowly yet always baiting me forward. I never felt bored. I always wanted to keep going, wanted to know. I think I was as desperate as Miri was. I would compare it to Lovecraft, but that would be an insult to Armfield's vastly superior work.

That said, the pace is rather slow; it's not a breakneck thriller where new revelations come at every corner. It's more of a dripping faucet. That is ideal for me, though. I like slow thrillers, where nothing is rushed and the pain and grief are luxuriated in rather than pushed to the side.

I will say that the novel also ended with a lot of loose ends. As a reader, that was somewhat unsatisfying; I do think that the story stands on its own and the ending works, but I also want to spend more time in this world with these characters. I want to know more about the Center, what happened to Matteo, what and how Miri does with her life now that Leah is gone. I don't know if there's a second novel planned, but if there is, I will be first in line to descend.

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"Gorgeous, creepy, totally suppressive, a book destined to be read and reread."

Miri thinks she has got her wife back, when Leah finally returns after a deep-sea mission that ended in catastrophe. It soon becomes clear, though, that Leah is not the same. Whatever happened in that vessel, whatever it was they were supposed to be studying before they were stranded on the ocean floor, Leah has brought part of it back with her, onto dry land and into their home.

Moving through something that only resembles normal life, Miri comes to realize that the life that they had before might be gone. Though Leah is still there, Miri can feel the woman she loves slipping from her grasp.

Our Wives Under The Sea is the debut novel from Julia Armfield, the critically acclaimed author of salt slow. It’s a story of falling in love, loss, grief, and what life there is in the deep deep sea.

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“I want to explain her in a way that would make you love her, but the problem with this is that loving is something we all do alone and through different sets of eyes”.

Miri’s wife, Leah, gets stuck on a deep-sea expedition, and when she returns, Miri is overjoyed - but Leah has changed, beneath the sea, and what follows is a heartbreaking, deeply unsettling, and utterly captivating portrait of love and pain. I am an enormous fan of Armfield’s work; her collection of short stories, salt slow, is one of my all-time favs. So I went into this novel hungry for more weirdness, and I was not disappointed.

Like much of Armfield’s work, the novel is difficult to categorise. It’s a queer love story, a horror novel, a medidiation on grief. It’s slender - my digital copy clocked in at just under 200 pages - but packs in so much. The dual narrative skips back and forth between Miri in the present and Leah in the past, so we learn some of what happened to Leah while also feeling Miri’s present feelings about what happened to Leah. It’s a clever structure that reveals subtly and slowly, never quite telling us the story we want or expect.

Armfield instead gives us a story filled with unease and ambiguity, and horrible little details that will stay in my mind for some time. But it’s also a tender love story - the love between Miri and Leah is palpable, bleeding off the page for both parties. They are deeply obsessed with one another in the most gorgeous way, and the bond between them is so clear, and so deep.

Because Armfield is an incredible writer, the novel is also really good on modern life, and all its little frustrations - Leah repeatedly trying to get hold of a person on a phone line, casual homophobia towards a lesbian couple, characters losing their college education to remebering “methods of treating black mould...passworeds and roast chicken recipes and the symptoms of cervical cancer”. These real-world anxieties push up against the quasi-supernatural events that are also taking place, leaving the reader as confused, helpless and unsettled as Miri.

In short, Our Wives Under The Sea is going to be one of the books of 2022 - it’s a haunting, dizzying, outrageous, terrifying read, rich in texture and feeling. I can’t wait to read it all over again when it’s released.

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Our Wives Under The Sea is an incredible addition to the "came back wrong" subset of horror literature. Readers chasing straight-forward answers will be left unsatisfied- I would have loved to learn more about the shady institute which funded Leah's expedition- but fans of Victor Lavelle's The Changeling and Stephen Graham Jones' The Only Good Indians should be content to be intrigued. Content warnings for a fair amount of 'gaslighting' (unsettlingly familiar to anyone with employer-linked health insurance) and body horror specifically involving eyes and skin.

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What an absolutely beautiful and haunting story! I've been looking for a 'different' horror novel and I'm so glad I found this. Definitely my book of 2021!!

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A masterpiece! OUR WIVES UNDER THE SEA is a perfectly-pitched work of speculative literary horror with a fabulously romantic love story at its heart. It's certainly one of the top 5 books I've read this year and I will be very surprised if it doesn't crown a lot of best-of lists and award shortlists when it comes out in 2022. Julia Armfield's great talent as a writer is in balancing the mundane and the fantastic, showing us normality gone askew in unsettling and increasingly disastrous ways. This worked to critically acclaimed effect in her short story collection 'salt slow' but is the kind of technique it's much more difficult to keep up through a lengthier piece of work. That difficulty is why it's so remarkable how well OUR WIVES pulls it off. Every moment of spine-tingling body horror is grounded and juxtaposed with something quotidian and believable - which of course makes the horror all the more horrifying. The novel also balances pathos and bathos perfectly, which acts as a tonic in comparison with some of the tiresomely bleak and portentous fiction currently being published in this genre. It is surprisingly funny, interspersing the otherworldly creepies with the kind of biting observational wit about modern life (weird upstairs neighbours, friends with annoying boyfriends, odd corners of the internet) that characterises the best of its peers in contemporary literary realism. It also made me cry (the ending left me totally bereft; even thinking about it as I write this I have a bit of a lump in my throat). And on a sentence level it really is extraordinary: faultless prose rhythm that doesn't let up until the last page, carefully considered imagery that never feels overplayed or like the author is prioritising style over substance. Really the prose styling leaves a LOT of contemporary literary fiction in the dust.

I want to note as well that I think there are stories being told in our specific, odd historical moment of 'increased LGBTQ+ representation in fiction' that are about two women in love which don't really... feel like they're about lesbians? Stories that in fact feel like if you switched the gender of one of the protagonists and find-replaced their pronouns in the manuscript, the rest of the book could carry on exactly the same as when it was about a queer relationship. It is a true breath of fresh air to me that OUR WIVES UNDER THE SEA doesn't do this. It is a book that thinks very hard about what it means to be queer and specifically what it means to be a lesbian. It is full of small true moments: not just about oppression or the slings and arrows of being queer in a heterosexual world - although it is very smart about that too, without ever feeling didactic or heavy-handed - but about the ways in which lesbian relationships are different, the ways in which lesbians are different. This I think is what makes the love story at the heart of the book feel so real and so powerful and so moving.

I can't recommend it enough and have already pre-ordered a copy.

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A haunting and grim look at grief and loss, Our Wives Under the Sea develops the best bits of Armfield's short story collection (salt slow) - bodily horror, sharp and scary images, compelling narrative, cutting moments of human pain and the difficulties of relationships. The book is well-researched, incorporating marine biology and geography to encapsulate the sheer horror of the ocean, its vast and terrifying potential, conveying that the sea makes the perfect horror story setting as a result of its reality: rather than creating her own supernatural, super scary environment, Armfield makes this place of science, fact and exploration the height of horror. The language is claustrophobic and taut with tension in a way that mirrors Leah's submarine experience; is fluid and flowing and bursting in a way that mirrors the water that runs through the narrative.

Armfield is just so good at creating stories that make the body the site of pain, gruesomeness, repulsion, and interweaves her compelling narratives with moving explorations of human interaction and suffering that go ocean-deep.

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This book shocked me right out of a reading slump and blew me away. I was so looking forward to this after falling in love with Armfield’s short story collection, Salt Slow, but Our Wives exceeded all my expectations and had me clinging to every word. The prose is so lyrical, so poetic, and so haunting; the descriptions are like pictures I wish I could frame and hang on my walls; the imagery is so shockingly clever it made me pause and reread line time and again.

I can’t emphasise how much I loved this - Julia Armfield is brilliant.

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strange and unsettling and beautiful, like looking at sunlight from underwater—i can't wait to re-read (and to own) a physical copy!

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This is probably one of the most unusual and haunting books I’ve read for a long time, with such stunning and assured writing it’s difficult to believe this is Julia Armfield’s debut novel. The story is in two parts running alongside; the present day where Leah returns from her mission increasingly strange and unwell, and the past where Leah is writing about what is happening on board the submarine. Leah’s wife Miri, struggles to cope with the Leah who has returned. Her wife is not how she was and is out of control of any sort of recovery. It’s difficult to say too much about this change without giving spoilers, but the way Leah returns but is not the same person, not whole, is truly frightening. Miri has her wife back after she had thought she was dead, but she misses her now than before. This is haunting to read, but written in ordinary careful everyday prose, so you don’t doubt the possibility of this happening at all, it’s completely credible and the details feel authentic whilst being also the strangest and most incredible.
The context of this is also their past, a sweet and quirky love story between the two women, Miri feeling apart from life until the lovely Leah turns up, helping her laugh at herself. The two of them make a good life for themselves together, a good team, ‘a fused, inextricable thing’ as Miri says early in the book. It’s all ‘a long time ago’ that they met but Miri remembers some of the tiny things that made her love Leah and the game they used to have remembering their early times together. Their love is in the memories as well as their cosy present life, but when Leah comes back from her mission this is all different and they can’t return to how they were. Although this is a book of huge drama in some ways, the small details also stick with you – the types of books that Miri likes, the noisy neighbours that they never actually see, watching ‘Jaws’ together, Miri’s prickly mother that she loved ‘hard and at a distance’. It’s a book of the ordinary and everyday but also a book of terrifying and amazing things as well with some sentences that I had to read twice to make sure I’d understood what the writer had said. It’s a book that could be read a second or third time I think, and be just as interesting and new each time.

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Our Wives Under the Sea by Julia Armfield

“Every horror movie ends the way you know it will” writes Armfield in her debut novel. Perhaps, this is the phrase that runs in parallel to her story. Its proleptic plot, uncanny tone, eerie atmosphere and ordinary interjections of life create at once the unheimlich, the ‘disturbing familiar’ that one is impelled to trace and chase through her novel. There have been sketches and outlines of this story before – protagonist comes back from journey altered and loved one can only bear witness to what they have become (Miri) loved one takes journey into the unknown that goes catastrophically wrong (Leah). Though like the sea Armfield is not interested in boundaries and boarders as her debut novel seems to commingle into the genre of Science Fiction. As Marine biologist Leah’s mysterious journey into the “the ocean [that] covers its tracks” and spasmodic “sea soliloquies” illustrate that this is a book thar charters into many different waters. Although Armfield’s novel is mainly situated in the depths of the gothic, “the sea is a haunted house” she writes on the opening page; her debut novel contains many different types of hauntings. Indeed, "Our Wives Under the Sea" by Julia Armfield is characteristic of the Nautical Gothic as her epistolary novel features its various motifs: the sea, the other, ambiguity, claustrophobia, and isolation all of which combined make a submerging read. “To know the ocean […] is to recognise the teeth it keeps half-hidden”; Armfield deftly describes the ocean’s mouth. One willingly commits to being drowned in the atmosphere she has created as her hypotyposis of the maritime and what lies above it: “the night is cold, white lights a curve of a moon like a finger crooked into a claw”, “late September, washed-down dregs of a liquid summer” make "Our Wives Under the Sea" a breath-taking read.

There are many wives under the sea. Armfield constructs them through the multiplicity of memory, flashbacks, and the non-linear structure that artfully anchor her book. Indeed, her dual narrative ensures that plurality is at the heart of this story. Despite the story’s protests that “loving is something we all do alone and through different sets of eyes”, there seems to be a preoccupation with multiplicity that dominates her story. This is because Armfield’s decision to splits her chapters between two alternate narrators (Miri and Leah) aptly conveys the many different multitudes that exist between people in love'. Indeed, her structuring of the story so that Miri’s perspective on Leah’s return proceeds Leah’s departure into deep sea convey the duality of "Our Wives Under the Sea" as opposites (return and departure) are paired. Paradox is an essential part of Armfield’s story telling. Absence is given a physical entity by Armfield through her deft description of the distance that can exist between two people even when they are next to each other. Near the beginning of the novel, she writes of “the silence like a spine” that has formed between Miri and Leah. In a way the reader spends the rest of the story examining “the new shape” their “relationship has taken” on. In an interview with Cosslet in the guardian Armfield described herself as having a preoccupation with “bodies, and the way that they kind of contain us and betray us”. Body Horror is also a key feature of this story .Almost all that she depicts is given a strange corporeality: the city “ is veined with inland tributaries” ,there is ‘bloating’ to a building” “ noise bleeds through the ceiling” of their flat but how Armfield describes the human body of her protagonist is truly abject: “blood would rise unheeded through her pores , so that sometimes I’d come in and find her pincushioned, dotted red as if pricked with needles” .

"Our Wives Under the Sea" probes many questions Are there some experiences that one can never come back from? What does it mean to return at all? Is there a point when someone is lost completely? Armfield’s prose poses these questions too beautifully for them to be ignored.

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Wow. Just wow. I honestly had no idea what to expect from this book. It was one I selected purely on title and cover (which is AMAZING). It’s actually quite tricky to describe what I got. There is an undercurrent of unease throughout this whole book, which builds to an inevitable event that left me feeling bereft. The characters are so beautifully drawn, the premise so scarily plausible and the whole book so beautifully written, that what I CAN say is that I don’t really know what that was, but I ADORED it.

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A literary horror! Not something I'd normally naturally pick up but I had seen so much hype around this book that I felt like I needed to see what all the fuss was about. I am so glad I did, and all the fuss is totally justified. A story all about love and grief and everything in-between. Leah returns from a deep sea mission to her wife Miri. She should have been under the sea for 3 weeks and returns after 6 months. To begin with everything seems okay, but it becomes quickly apparent that Leah is not the same person she was when she left and that the sea voyage she embarked on was much darker than initially thought, Beautifully written and full of tension.

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‘’The deep sea is a haunted house: a place in which things that ought not to exist move about in the darkness. Unstill, is the word Leah uses, tilting her head to the side as if in answer to some sound though the evening is quiet - dry hum of the road outside the window and little to draw the ear besides.’’

Leah has been fascinated by the sea for her entire life. She’s attracted by its unknown depths – what really does lie beneath?
She is married to Miri and her marine research takes her away on field trips for weeks at a time. But the latest one has lasted for over 6 months and Miri cannot get anyone at the Centre to tell her what is happening to Leah and her two colleagues. They maintain an unhelpful silence.
Meanwhile Leah is in a submarine lying far, far below the ocean’s surface. She has never been down so far before and they are surrounded by darkness. None of their equipment is working and they have no contact with the outside world. But was it a genuine accident that they fell so far or was it deliberate?
And then Leah returns. But changed. What happened to her in the watery depths and why has the Centre quietly stopped operating? And as her metamorphosis begins, Miri realises that their marriage and life together may be coming to an end. She may have to make the ultimate sacrifice for the woman she loves…
This is a real slow burner of a book which has been marketed as literary horror. It’s told in the third person and alternates through Leah and Miri’s eyes. The reader learns how they met, married and their lives together. And slowly we also learn of Leah’s fate, trapped in a claustrophobic vessel as they wait and hope for rescue. On dry land she and Miri live in an almost equally claustrophobic situation in a tiny flat hemmed in by their upstairs neighbours constant TV. With Leah, the reader shares her terror at the submarine falling so far below. The crew hear a voice and strange noises which one of her colleagues’ claims is a ghost
But their relationship changes when Leah comes home. From a marriage in which they were equals, it shifts to Miri slowly and insidiously becoming Leah’s carer. As she bleeds, spends most of her time in the bath and starts to become unrecognisable, Miri begins to realise that she may have to let go of their time together as a final act of love. The horror at home is counterbalanced by Miri still going about her everyday life; working and seeing friends while not understanding what is happening to her wife.

The horror element is kept low-key and it’s left to the reader’s imagination to picture Leah’s transformation. A revival of the body horror genre perhaps? It’s also a very tender story as Miri begins to accept what is happening and her grief at knowing that they will lose their lives together.
The book is Julia Armfield’s debut novel and she has spoken about her love of horror movies and how they have influenced her particular form of queer gothic. Water metaphors abound as does the claustrophobia. Some commentators have commented on the very overt water metaphors and symbolism, but I felt that it suited the plot. It was such an atmospheric story as well in the combination of their daily lives and the strong sense of the unseen. The reader learns what happens to Leah and the crew, but Miri never does. However, she has to deal with its aftermath.

I loved this book for its strangeness and its atmosphere – it’s a novella and the length felt about right. A wonderful cover as well.

My thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for an ARC.

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Gosh this is a strange book…and almost impossible to capture the descriptive nature of the whole thing in a review. If you like stories with an element of the fairy tale, a bit of horror, a desolation, and yet a compelling love, you will enjoy this.

It is the story of Leah who goes on a deep sea diving expedition and something goes wrong. Eventually she returns to her wife and her life but… the Leah who has returned isn’t the Leah that Miri married and she has no clue how to help her or what to do about her need to soak in the bath for hours and hours and hours and not eat anything.

The book is written in a slow, mellow way with the unfurling seeming almost normal and expected after such a trip but of course it is anything but…

If you want something a little odd and a lot eerie, this is for you. I will reread it again in a while to appreciate the writing now I’ve gotten the whole story. I like the fact that a lesbian couple are in a book that isn’t just a formulaic romance - this book is certainly not formulaic. What an imagination Ms Armfield has - and I will be going back to read her short story collection.

I was given a copy of this book by Netgalley.

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'Beyond this point, there is a final layer… This layer is known as the Hadalpelagic, or Hadal One, a name which speaks for itself. Lying between roughly nineteen and thirty-six thousand feet, much of this layer of the water is unexplored, which is not to say uninhabited.'

Miri’s biologist wife Leah has returned home after a deep-sea mission that was supposed to last for three weeks, but took three months. Leah won’t or can’t explain the length of her absence, and when Miri repeatedly calls her employer, the Centre, she remains in an endless loop of recorded messages. Leah’s account of the mission alternates with Miri’s longer sections, as she describes how their submarine began to sink, as planned – and then just kept sinking. With the lights and power off, and the comms broken, they had no way of knowing just how deep they’d fallen – and no way of getting back up.

When I first read about Our Wives Under The Sea, Julia Armfield’s first novel, it sounded like it ticked a lot of my boxes. Deep-sea exploration, lesbians, speculative fiction, horror… plus that haunting cover. However, I couldn’t have anticipated just how much I would love this book. I am officially obsessed. Much as I love this kind of crossover between literary fiction and speculative fiction/horror, I don’t think we should underestimate just how difficult it is to pull off. While I think these two kinds of writing can work so well together (my own novel-in-progress, The Forest That Eats Bone, also occupies this space), some of their demands pull against each other. The kind of concrete explanations for mysterious phenomena that you might get in science fiction, for example, don’t always work well alongside the usual rhythms of literary prose; meanwhile, literary fiction’s penchant for strange metaphor can be confusing in a story where bizarre things are actually happening. Armfield balances this perfectly. We learn just enough about the Centre to root Leah’s mission in the real world, while also positioning it in the realms of the uncanny (in comparison, Jeff VanderMeer’s acclaimed Annihilation drifted too far into unreality for me). Her use of unsettling scientific facts about the deep sea allows what is possible and what is impossible to bleed beautifully into each other.

However, the other thing that anchors this story is the relationship between Miri and Leah. Armfield avoids the temptation of romantic vagueness that seems to catch so many writers of speculative literary fiction and makes them both wonderfully-observed, concretely realistic people. I loved Miri’s stray observations about the Leah she knew before her wife embarked on the mission: ‘The thing about Leah was that nine times out of ten she couldn’t bring herself to be unkind about anyone, but then three times a year would say something so blisteringly cruel about someone we knew that she’d clap both hands to her mouth and turn in a circle as if warding off evil’. Their world, too, is rendered in such fine detail, from the sound of the neighbour’s television that constantly blares into their flat to the way the weather was on their first date: ‘The night was wet, air close and flannel-damp’.

Our Wives Under The Sea is not one of those frustrating literary novels that is simply a metaphor for something else, but it uses the potential of its plot to talk about grief in expertly moving ways. Armfield has written about her interest in ‘women and their bodies’ and this certainly comes through in Our Wives Under The Sea; alongside the weird metamorphosis of Leah’s body after she emerges from the ocean, Miri recollects caring for her mother in the final stages of dementia, and the way she lost control of her own movements after a life of adopting only very rigid facial expressions. The ending of the novel – and this never happens – made me cry.

Armfield’s prose is absolutely stunning, but this is not a novel that is all about the writing. (I wouldn’t love it so much if it was). It’s a gorgeous, heartbreaking book about the relationship between two women and what becomes of that relationship, and it gets a full five stars from me, which is another thing that almost never happens. But I guess stranger things have happened at sea.

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This is an absolutely beautiful, emotional read. A touching love story with an undertone of something.....other. Gorgeous writing and a story that feels incredibly deep for such a short novel/ I loved it.

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We begin with Miri, who describes what it is like since her wife returned from a lost research dive in a submarine. We follow her experience as her wife, Leah, spends more and more time in the bath.

Whatever way you think the story might go from this brief initial introduction, it is unlikely that it will quite follow your imagined trajectory and this, combined with the wonderfully eerie descriptions of the world beneath the waves, makes <em>Our Wives Under the Sea</em> a very pleasing and absorbing read. The sea and its depths haunt Leah and the reader. What is really down there? Why has the research company she was working for gone to ground? What were they really looking for down there, and how ethical was their dive?

I should have published this review weeks ago when the novel was fresh, but it's testament to the writing that I can still vividly see the last few scenes from both Miri and Leah's perspectives. Like a mermaid's wish in reverse, this novel questions how life crawled from the ocean and what it might be like to go back. It insistently presses the unknown down like the fathomless weight of the ocean squeezing the breath from your thoughts, the blood from your flesh. It's a great read. It comes out on the 3rd of March 2022, so pre-order it now.

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Our Wives Under The Sea is Julia Armfield's stunning debut. Miri thinks she has her wife back, when Leah finally returns after 6 months, after a 3 week deep sea mission ended in catastrophe. It soon becomes clear, that Leah may have come back wrong. Whatever happened in that vessel, whatever it was they were supposed to be studying before they were stranded on the ocean floor, Leah has carried part of it with her, onto dry land and into their home. To have the woman she loves back should mean a return to normal life, but Miri can feel Leah slipping from her grasp. Living in the same space but suddenly separate, Miri comes to realize that the life that they had might be gone.

This has to be one of the most stunning novels that I've read in a long time - Armfield's writing is hauntingly lyrical and beautiful. The observations of relationships, where she introduced small ideas that felt so unique and specific, are so lovely and real. Yet there's mystique in the horror all the way through the novel, it's slow and quiet and creeping as the oddness of the circumstances grow.

Otherworldly, strange, mesmerizing, tender, frightening, beautiful. This is going to be one of The Books of 2022.

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Rightfully hyped and raved about, a stunning literary and lyrical novel. I purchased it after reading this ebook.

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..𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘐 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘭𝘪𝘴𝘦 𝘴𝘩𝘦 𝘪𝘴 𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘥𝘰𝘰𝘳𝘸𝘢𝘺 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘩𝘢𝘭𝘭, 𝘯𝘢𝘬𝘦𝘥 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘴𝘵𝘪𝘭𝘭 𝘸𝘦𝘵, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘰𝘯𝘦 𝘰𝘧 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘦𝘺𝘦𝘴 𝘪𝘴 𝘯𝘰 𝘭𝘰𝘯𝘨𝘦𝘳 𝘢𝘯 𝘦𝘺𝘦 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘢 𝘴𝘵𝘳𝘢𝘯𝘨𝘦, 𝘴𝘦𝘮𝘪-𝘴𝘰𝘭𝘪𝘥 𝘨𝘭𝘰𝘣𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘰𝘯 𝘤𝘭𝘰𝘴𝘦𝘳 𝘪𝘯𝘴𝘱𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘢𝘱𝘱𝘦𝘢𝘳𝘴 𝘵𝘰 𝘣𝘦 𝘮𝘢𝘥𝘦 𝘶𝘱 𝘰𝘧 𝘱𝘶𝘳𝘦 𝘸𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘳. 𝘞𝘩𝘦𝘯 𝘪𝘵 𝘣𝘶𝘳𝘴𝘵𝘴, 𝘪𝘵 𝘧𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘴 𝘥𝘰𝘸𝘯 𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘧𝘢𝘤𝘦 𝘭𝘪𝘬𝘦 𝘢 𝘺𝘰𝘭𝘬 𝘦𝘴𝘤𝘢𝘱𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘢 𝘸𝘩𝘪𝘵𝘦 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘐 𝘱𝘶𝘵 𝘢 𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘰𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘮𝘺 𝘮𝘰𝘶𝘵𝘩 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘯𝘰𝘴𝘦 𝘢𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩 𝘢𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘤𝘪𝘱𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘢 𝘴𝘮𝘦𝘭𝘭..

A hauntingly gothic style book which fully absorbed me. Julia Armfield's novel Our Wives Under The Sea is the much anticipated read of 2022. It follows the story of Miri, whose world falls apart when her wife Leah goes on a deep sea mission and although promisingly, Leah does return (after a lengthy spell) , an unexpected turn of events and she is not who she seems to be. In fact, she is water...

A strangely mysterious, eerie and chilling fairytale full of atmospheric features, it'll leave you wondering what is beneath the waters and questioning the impact of the deep sea. Armfield effectively delivers the chapters ranging between perspectives of Leah and Miri to present the deep love and loss encountered by the women. Whilst Miri's perspectives are present moments which drives the narrative forward, Leah's estranged perspective displays the fragmented view of the world she now lives in and the shattering effect of what occurred at the dive. As Leah slowly transforms into water or a possibly other wordly creature; it becomes apparent both women are struggling with the unpredictable current of life. Drawing in a myriad of folklore and mythology, our Wives Under The Sea is a captivating story which will definitely be a top contender for a 5* read this year. Thank you @netgalley for my arc. Loved it!

💯 recommend

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When I saw an upcoming first novel by Julia Armfield, I just had to get my hands on it. I was judge on the Shadow Panel for the 2019 The Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year award when her short story collection salt slow was shortlisted for the main award and won the Shadow Panel.

Our Wives Under the Sea is a story of two women, Miri and her wife Leah. Miri works from home writing grant applications for charities; Leah is an explorer, a scientist working on deep sea research for the mysterious Centre (there's something a bit... off... about the Centre, although we never find out what). In chapters narrated alternately by Miri and Leah, Armfield tells how Leah went to sea, was lost, and unexpectedly returned. And about the aftermath of that. Along the way we hear about their earlier lives, how they met, and their friends.

It's a short book but packs so much in. There is loss, twice over - Miri's time after Leah vanished (her dive went several months past its scheduled end) is mentioned in retrospect, with her complex feelings, the lack of closure, hinted at. More directly addressed is the growing realisation that the person who came back is not the same. Returned, Leah spends much of her time in the bath; she eats little; there is little conversation and no intimacy. Yet is she is, indisputably, back and shows flashes of her old self - and Miri desperately tries to find a way to cope, to reach out, researching, for example, an online community 'Our Husbands in Space' of women who pretend that their husbands have gone off on space missions (or, in some cases, 'Come Back Wrong" - CBW).

The Centre is little help, refusing to take Miri's calls, eventually providing a counsellor who it fails to pay. It's as though Leah has gone again, and only Miri's love for her remains. Miri's emotions - a mixture of anger, fear and (declining) hope really come over, all complicated by her relationships with her (now dead) mother and fear of developing the same degenerative illness as her (Miri once booked a generic test but lost track of time and missed the appointment). Miri has always seen herself as the one in the relationship who might end up needing care - selfishly, she now understands - and struggles to understand how she should be with Leah, becoming isolated from her friends and letting work slide.

Leah's side of things focusses more on the research voyage and her relationship in the diving ship with her two crewmates. Leah was always ocean obsessed - as a teenager her best friend was an octopus - so you'd think the dive would have been everything she wanted but the account of it seems frustrated, slightly disengaged, as though something were wrong from the start. Nor does it reveal, exactly, what it was that changed her so much (Armfield is clear that Leah is changed, and changing). The meaning of what happened needs to be read between the lines, worked out, imagined. There is a lurking sense of strangeness here, of being excluded from something even as we're let in to be told about events on the ocean floor (Leah hasn't shared these yet with Miri, though she will - but we don't see what Miri will make of them, another of the frustrations to communication which litter the book)

Alongside all the weirdness (lovely weirdness!) Armfield gives us very mundane, rooted scenes of modern life: a party with Leah's mates, figures who are immediately familiar, the recurring annoyance of a neighbour who leaves their TV on loud at all hours, the difficulty of negotiating the logic loop of a call centre. Gradually, I began to compare the isolated lives of Leah, Jelka and Matteo in their little capsule on the seabed with those of Leah and Miri marooned in their flat. Their lives outside those settings seem to become, increasingly, stories they recall or tell themselves, Leah almost unable to leave the flat, Miri more and more unwilling to do so. Isolation brings recollections of earlier lives - Miri's mother, Leah's dad from whom she seems to have taken her obsession with the oceans.

Inevitably the question arises of whether this is a "lockdown" novel and, yes, it does have that sense of enclosure, of squashing one's head against the window, as well as reflecting on the openness of sea (the book is imbued with the heaviness of the ocean) and sky ('People grow odd when there's too much sky'). But there's much more going on here than that. Leah's and Miri's lives, as seen in glimpses of the 'before' are being milled into something else by the rolling of the waves and that's not just a slide, it's a very active process which we seen going on - and, while the book may sound very sorrowful, it's not a process without hope.

I'd strongly recommend Our Wives Under the Sea .

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A haunting read. i read and loved salt slow by julia armfield last year and i was very excited to read her first full length novel. following two women and their marriage after one of them returns from a submarine trip that went wrong, it's a slow unwinding of how they both cope with the event, how their lives do and don't work now, and what horrors might be lurking under the surface

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Our Wives Under the Sea is an utterly immersive, deeply moving story about love and grief, and the mysteries of the sea. Leah, a research marine scientist, has returned from a trip to the bottom of the ocean. Miri, her wife, is at first relieved to have her beloved back home safe. But Leah is not the same woman, and as the story progresses, the author expertly drip feeding clues, it becomes apparent that the sea voyage may have been something much darker. I couldn't put this book down, the characters of Miri and Leah and their alternating perspectives hooked me, and I was caught. Haunting, lyrical, powerful, I can't wait to read whatever Armfield writes next.

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A truly haunting, immersive story with some of the most incredible, lyrical writing I've ever read. As perfect as a book can be.

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Worth reading for the quality of the writing alone.

Here though is a haunting narrative about relationships and our fascination with the sea. The text is uplifting and memorable yet the story is about love, absence and loss. Flecks of humour and insightful prose balance the sense of apprehension and impending dread.

Told through each individual couple within an enduring relationship. It is the record of thoughts and events, a log that Leah keeps while exploring the darkest depths of the ocean. Interspersed with this is her wife’s account struggling with her prolonged absence and the changes she perceives in the woman she loves. Miri is used to these scientific adventures, but this trip has been longer than planned and Leah has been away and out of communication without explanation for an extended period sufficient that Miri has withdrawn in on herself.

This sense that it’s not going to end well, drives the book and compels the reader to learn more. The small crew in the submarine seem doomed from the start yet Leah returns so the horror shifts elsewhere - what happened at the bottom of the sea; how has it changed the participants and their loved ones imagining the worse at home?

As a child I loved science fiction TV shows like Space Family Robinson and Star Trek but adventures like Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea seemed more thrilling and terrifying to my younger inquisitive mind. Jacques Cousteau was on television, exploring the oceans for real and it seemed a world closer to home; with monsters of the deep more credible than aliens.

Perhaps we need more books about the unknown creatures living in the deepest water. Certainly strange species of life seem to have been discovered as we have been able to dive deeper. Fact and fiction can be blurred underwater, as the ocean floor is much closer than stars - light years away. It remains a place of myth and mystery still, from mermaids to Atlantis. Still closer to land the Loch Ness Monster keeps a tourist sector going and maintains the legend.

The film Jaws has had a lasting effect on my psyche, certainly scuba diving a coral reef held a sense of menace and open swimming in Finland’s lakes was not without thoughts of what eyes were observing me below.

This book plays into that anxiety. I think it is a common one, which should make this an attractive book to most. Having read it, this anticipated threat coursed through me and I was not disappointed.

Implied danger or horror is often more powerful than graphic violence. Wobbly sets and plastic sea creatures on Dr Who less frightening than monsters under the bed.

I loved this premise of all is not well; what happened and it’s aftermath? An unspeakable horror or event.

But the class of a true story teller isn’t just that build up to denouncement. It is characterisation and realism. A shared human experience that a reader can identify with; that draws you in as a participant rather than a casual observer. Where a sense of normality, even with nosy neighbours lulls you into a place where the unexplained and the unimaginable can assail you and fill you with horror. Yet it is these strange events that unfold against a relationship bound by reciprocated love that elevates this from a book into literature.

Worth reading for the quality of the writing alone.

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“The deep sea is a haunted house: a place in which things that ought not to exist move about in the darkness.”

The only way I can think to even start this review is to say that this was a truly excellent debut novel, Armfield is masterful at incorporating that which is creepy & eerie into her storylines, leaving you reeling yet also utterly immersed in the tale of the deep sea & the affects it has on those who explore it.

Our story is told via two perspectives, that of Leah & Miri - a married queer couple who are navigating life after Leah returns from a deep sea dive that went horribly wrong. Leah was only meant to be gone for 3 weeks, yet is gone for much longer & the woman who has returned to Miri is not the same one that left. As the story unfolds more & more unsettling occurrences & events come to the surface, leaving the reader feeling somewhat freaked out to put it plainly - yet utterly captivated.

Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be that interested in submarines & how these crafts operate, yet Armfield will layer her storytelling in such a way that she keeps you hooked. She is an incredible talent who chooses her words carefully, pulling all facts, emotions, occurrences & sheer creepy shit together so perfectly. I feel as if I view the deep sea in a different light, I’m weary of table salt & now watch how long I spend in the bath…..when you have read it, you’ll know.

All in all, an ominous queer love story exploring themes & subject matters I doubt many of us have read before & one that I cannot recommend highly enough (I am wondering why I forgot to include it in my fave’s for ’21).

An enormous thank you to the publisher for the e-galley!

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Miri thinks she has got her wife back, when Leah finally returns after a deep sea mission that ended in catastrophe. It soon becomes clear, though, that Leah may have come back wrong. Whatever happened in that vessel, whatever it was they were supposed to be studying before they were stranded on the ocean floor, Leah has carried part of it with her, onto dry land and into their home.

To have the woman she loves back should mean a return to normal life, but Miri can feel Leah slipping from her grasp. Memories of what they had before – the jokes they shared, the films they watched, all the small things that made Leah hers – only remind Miri of what she stands to lose. Living in the same space but suddenly separate, Miri comes to realize that the life that they had might be gone.

Our Wives Under The Sea is the debut novel from the critically acclaimed author of salt slow. It’s a story of falling in love, loss, grief, and what life there is in the deep, deep sea.

I was keen to read this as I had enjoyed Armfield's previous book Salt Slow very much. I found this to be just as good. Wonderfully immersive, precisely written, this book captures beautifully the small intimacies between a couple whilst at the same time knowing exactly how to twist the knife and create off putting, creepy images. II would love to know more about what went on down there, in the deep, and also what happened to Matteo?!! I am hoping there may be a sequel to this wonderful book

Highly recommend
Thank you to NetGalley and Picador for an ARC in exchange for an honest review

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The deep sea is a haunted house: a place in which things that ought not to exist move about in the darkness

The personal relationship of Miri and Leah confined to their flat is paralleled by the sense of imprisonment of a deep-sea vessel under the ocean, both places surrounded by unwanted noises and a sense of estrangement. And the slow breakdown of Leah's body surfaces represents the marriage's dissolution until the ultimate moment of lovingly letting someone go.

Armfield's writing is poetic and sympathetic, and he maintains a good level of control throughout. It feels like it could have been tightened up a touch in areas where the watery symbolism gets a little heavy-handed. I also enjoyed the hidden (ha!) messages about mystery, unknowability, and things that aren't rational or visible.

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I loved Salt Slow by this author, so I had high expectations for this one and they were certainly met. I found this book to be so heart breaking because I truly cared for the characters and their relationship. I also really appreciated how subtly the mystery at the heart of the story was approached. One of my favourite books in recent years

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An atmospheric, tender story about the aftermath of a deep sea dive which went horribly wrong.

Miri and Leah were happily married until a routine deep sea dive for Leah, which should have only lasted a few weeks, took many months.

The story is told from the perspective of Miri in the present, and Leah recalling the dive.

I wouldn’t call this a horror. There is suspense and grief and that feeling when you think you should have been given just a little bit more…

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one of my highest anticipated new releases, and it didn’t disappoint. written in julia armfield’s usual soft, lyrical writing this novel paints a tender story about grief and letting go and loss.

all intertwined with a lot of water imagery. the ocean practically seeps from between these pages, all these salt-licked passages. i loved every beautiful, sad, delicate second of this and it left my heart feeling quite heavy once i finished.

many thanks to netgalley for an early reading copy.

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I read Salt Slow by Julia Armfield in 2019 and fell completely in love with the writing. Armfield writes about the body so delicately and intimately. When I found out that Armfield was releasing a novel, I knew I had to read it as soon as possible.

Our Wives Under the Sea follows Miri and the return of her wife, Leah, who has returned from a deep-sea mission which did not go to plan. Since Leah returned from her expedition, she has never been the same. She spends hours in the bath, she throws up water, her gums bleed. Miri is trying to navigate Leah’s return and understand what happened to Leah on this trip.

This is a story about love, loss and grief. Armfield grieves the ending of normality and the changing of relationships. Hearing both Miri and Leah’s perspectives highlights the complexity of both character’s feelings. Miri is mourning the changes in her partner and Leah is processing her mission.

Being such a fan of Armfield’s short story collection, I was both anxious and excited to read her full-length novel. This book is incredible. The pacing of the story is perfect as it slowly unravels and teases out more details about Miri and Leah. The language is beautiful and dances around the page. Armfield’s descriptions of the body are poetic and create a vivid picture.

Julia Armfield is one of the most exciting authors around right now. I cannot wait to see what else she publishes in the future as both Salt Slow and Our Wives Under the Sea are incredible pieces of literature.

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I loved this book, it's a beautiful eerie read on love and loss which asks what if you're partner coming home was worse than being lost? The relationship between Miri and Leah is beautifully drawn as events move between the present and Leah's ordeal trapped at the bottom of the sea. One to watch out for - simply a stunning, captivating read!

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I loved this novel. I wouldn't say it's 'experimental' particularly, but it's inventive, and because of that, naturally, it won't appeal to everyone. There is a beautiful strangeness about it, but there is a sense that Armfield is in total control of this narrative. That said, the narrative asks a lot of the reader - there are gaps that the writer doesn't fill. I love that, but not everyone would, so questions about what exactly happened is left to us, the readers to try to not so much work out, but create ourselves. That sense of dangerous claustrophobia that, say, a deep sea-diver might actually feel is there, right there, in the narrative style.

The plot really is brilliant, compelling in every way. Loss: yes. Grief: yes. But don't go thinking it's depressing. It's unsettlingly beautifully done. Highly recommended.

I'm grateful to Netgalley for a pre-pub copy.

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This is one of the best novels I’ve read in the last two years - I was already a fan of salt slow and had very high expectations and it really lived up to that! Told in short sections alternating between two narrators who are married to each other, this is a dark, compelling fable which is exceptionally written. Julia Armfield’s language is simple but her turn of phrase is extraordinary.

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I read Armfield’s short story collection Salt Slow around this time last year and absolutely loved it. Her writing style is so unique and unlike anything I had ever read before. So when I got approved to read this, I was beyond excited.

Our Wives Under The Sea is Armfield’s first novel. It is told from the perspectives of Miri and her wife, Leah. Miri thinks she finally has her wife back, after Leah returns from a deep sea mission that ended in catastrophe. However, it soon becomes clear that Leah is not right after this mission. Whatever happened in that vessel, whatever it was they were supposed to be studying before they were stranded on the ocean floor, Leah has carried part of it with her, onto dry land and into their home. To have the woman she loves back should mean a return to normal life, but Miri can feel Leah slipping from her grasp. Memories of what they had before – the jokes they shared, the films they watched, all the small things that made Leah hers – only remind Miri of what she stands to lose. Living in the same space but suddenly separate, Miri comes to realise that the life that they had might be gone.

This was absolutely brilliant! Armfield’s writing is so atmospheric, having me gripped from the moment I picked up this book. I loved the flicking perspectives of Miri and Leah, seeing the tragedy of the mission and Miri’s grasp of Leah slowly slipping away. Both characters are quite different from one another yet their love story makes so much sense. Their love for one another is so beautifully portrayed. And as the book progresses, it becomes more and more heartbreaking as a result. Their two perspectives make the book and their story so compelling. It is a deep examination on grief, love and loss.

Yet this book is also classically Armfield in the sense of its haunting nature. Her vivid descriptions of the deep sea mission and what is happening to Leah throughout will have your mouth hanging open on occasion and your skin crawling.

I could not recommend this book more. It is a beautiful blend of heart-wrenching, disturbing and atmospheric. Get Our Wives Under The Sea on your 2022 lists bookworms, it’s truly one you won’t want to miss.

Thank you so much to Picador & NetGalley for allowing me to read this ARC.

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An outstanding debut novel from Julia Armfield, author of salt slow, a short story collection that I also adored. Our Wives Under the Sea is deeply unsettling, quietly intense book about Miri and Leah, who has just returned after a submarine investigation went wrong. Leah may never be the same again, as Miri soon learns, and what occurs from this point jumps forwards and backwards in time, painting a picture of a relationship full of love, and its difficult end. I would 100% recommend this.

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I really enjoyed Julia Armfield's short story collection 'Salt Slow', especially her writing, which was always exceptional and a brilliant mix of playfulness and fantastic imagery.

'Our Wives...' takes this and goes further, into what I found was a beautiful and haunting book about love, trauma and relationships. But that doesn't do this book justice- it plays with small fantastical details that grow more twisted and gruesome and shimmering as the book continues.

We watch as the married couple Leah and Miri take it in turns to tell their stories about Leah's deep sea work, and an incident that happened, leaving Leah a changed woman, who spends the day silent and running up the water bill as she sits in the bath endlessly.

Miri's difficulty in coping with everything that is going on soon transforms into a crystal-clear understanding of what must be done, which the book teases playfully by telling you to expect that, as with many stories, the ending you expect might well be coming.

I found this so subtly brilliant and clever that I did not want it to end- it was tender, silly, heartfelt and tragic, but never stopped being brilliant.

I received an advanced copy of this from NetGalley and Picador in exchange for an honest review.

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One week to go until "Our Wives Under the Sea", is published and I'm no more ready to write a coherent review than I was when I was so completely stunned by this in November. I had a pretty intense reading experience, starting it alone in Paris, getting lost to the city around me, and then finishing it in the strange early days of my covid quarantine, but it didn't matter what was going on, I was completely submerged in this story about two women, Miri and Leah, and the vast, terrifying expanse of the ocean.

Miri is elated when her wife Leah finally returns from a months long subterranean research trip, after assuming she had gone missing after getting next to no news or support from the centre Leah works for. When Leah comes back, however, simply put she comes back wrong. It reminded me of countless stories where a husband returns to his wife changed and traumatised from a war or from space, the spouse turned into a stranger, from an unknowable journey to the far reaches of the earth and human experience. It reminded me so much of the beginning of The Time Travellers Wife, "why have you gone where I cannot follow?".

In Miri's chapters we see a woman trying desperately to hang onto Leah who has not only changed completely in temperament but is exhibiting strange behaviours and fixations around water, drinking it with salt and lying silently for hours in the bath. In Leah's, we are only ever in the past, in the time before and during the trip.

It is a mystery at it's heart, but by the time we find out what happened to Leah it seems as though that was never completely the point. We don't get the answers we might have hoped for, but in a way that made me love it even more. I knew I loved this fierce, strange, otherworldly from the first pages - despite it being uniquely horrifying for me with an aversion to body horror and fear of fish! It's definitely for the reader who wants vibes more than a galloping plot, but it is so gorgeous and original and horrible that I was very happy to lean into that. Out 3rd March from the author of the fantastic Salt Slow.

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This is an absorbing novel, stunningly written, with prose that flows like water. It's lyrical, haunting and deeply moving. A bone chilling mystery alongside a beautiful depiction of the devastation of love lost. This is a book that stirs the emotions and lingers long after the last page is turned.

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This book is one of my favourites from the last year. It is part mystery and part horror. But the part I found most hard hitting was the description of relationships and the grief when they are forced to change or end all together.

Miri is married to Leah who is a marine researcher. Following a deep sea mission that goes horribly wrong, Miri is delighted to have her wife back. But it quickly becomes clear that all is not well and Leah's experience has changed her both mentally and physically.

The story swaps between Miri and Leah's points of view with Miri's side predominantly telling the story of their relationship but also focusing on what has happened since Leah returns. And Leah's side tells the story of what happens on the dive but also touches on her life with Miri.

Hearing the various stories from their relationship was so touching and made the rest of the story hugely impactful. I would highly recommend this book to others and cannot believe that it is a debut novel - huge congratulations to the author on a wonderful piece.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read this book.

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