'An unsettling and lushly-written reimagining of witch trials. The Handmaid's Tale meets The Shape of Water' KIRSTY LOGAN
Everyone on this island has a story. This is mine.
Esta has known nothing but Eden's Isle her whole life. After a fire left her orphaned and badly scarred, Esta was raised by her grandmother in a deeply religious society who cut itself off from the mainland in the name of salvation. Here, fear rules: fear of damnation, fear of the outside world and fear of what lurks beneath the water - a corrupting evil the islanders call the Seawomen.
But Esta wants more than a life where touching the water risks corruption, where her every move is watched and women are controlled in every aspect of their lives. Married off, the women of the island must conceive a child within their appointed motheryear or be marked as cursed and cast into the sea as a sacrifice in an act called the Untethering.
When Esta witnesses a woman Untethered she sees a future to fear. Her fate awaits, a loveless marriage, her motheryear declared. And after a brief taste of freedom, the insular world Esta knows begins to unravel...
The Seawomen is a fiercely written and timely feminist novel, at once gothic, fantastical and truly unforgettable.
'Richly atmospheric, powerful and provocative. A raw and beautiful coming of age story' CAROLINE LEA
'The Seawomen immerses you in its watery world' SOPHIE WARD
'Dive in and don't look back' ZOE GILBERT
'I was hooked' NATASHA BROWN
'The Seawomen is a captivating and sometimes terrifying debut that will sweep you out to sea' JEN CAMPBELL
'Mesmerising and moving, I couldn't put it down' SUSANNAH WISE
'Beautifully written, unsettling as a storm over the ocean' LOUISE MORRISH
'An astonishing literary achievement. Chloe Timms is an extraordinary new talent' LAURA PRICE
'Fiercely feminist and utterly unique' NATASHA NGAN
'An allegorical love story with echoes of fairytales and told with a visceral brutality' KATE SAWYER
'A provocative, imaginative and beautifully written work of art' BECCA DAY
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 65 members
Thank you so much Chloe Timms for your wonderful book and NetGalley for approving me to read it.
It is one of those books that's going to stay with me for quite a while, and one that doesn't fit into any particular category or genre, but one that makes you think while not really entertaining you... more like enthralling you. I wasn't sure what to expect but I was captivated from the start and drawn along, hoping more and more for Esta to find out what was really happening in her world and for her to find a way out of it, to find the freedom she instinctively knows is her right but which is not something tangible or talked about. A place where evil and fear rule. The suspense had me turning the page and saying, just one more chapter... and then not wanting it to end, but wanting it to end. Masterfully restrained.
The Seawomen is quite simply magical. This genre-bending story of Esta, trapped on ‘the island’ as part of a truly sinister religious cult is so atmospheric and beautifully written it’s almost hypnotic. The cult itself is both dark and highly-believable in turns, and has shades of the church as portrayed in ‘Oranges are not the only fruit’ which is then mixed in with the mystical sea people to make a rich and fulfilling universe.
I’m a bit at a loss for what else to say except READ THIS BOOK.
If I could give this book more than five stars I would and I wouldn’t be surprised if it wins some awards.
Years ago a God fearing man ran from the advancing world and came upon an island where he encounters the Seawomen. As the years go by the islanders are taught the evilness of the sea and the Seawomen; with crops dying, floods and diseases spreading across the land when a woman is corrupted by them. Esta watches the Untethering believing these childless women have turned from God and that their death is justified; that is until she takes a step into the sea and finds the island isn’t what it seems.
This book was just incredible! I’m going to start with the writing style because that was what blew me away the most about this book. It’s a very hard style to execute and I’ve only ever read one author that pulled it off like this. It’s extremely hard to make daily life exciting but the author gives just enough of everything to make it hard to put the book down. I also liked the little hints that said the book was almost a memoir.
The plot was incredible. I love books about religion and ones that are historical, which this one sort of is. The whole concept of this island is so realistic, not just in the fact there are some islands with tribes on that haven’t integrated with the world, but also the metoprolol one too with our own fears trapping us. The corruption of religion is something we’ve seen in the past and present and the whole ‘women can only be corrupted by the sea’ reminded me of the witch trials and how a tiny thing could be the death of an innocent woman. I pray there’s a book two so we can see more of the Seawoman and also what happens on the island going forward.
The character development was incredible. Esta was always a curious character and the internal fighting she had with herself made the connection to her extremely easy to develop. I love the fact that even though the book is in first person we still get to see all these other storylines and the development of those characters too.
This book just blew me out of the water in every way and I’ve already told my mum it’s a must read for her when it comes out😂. This is one of those books that will stick with me throughout my life for the plot, writing and emotional turmoil I felt whilst reading it.
Thank you so, so much to Netgalley, the author and the publisher for allowing me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
This was such an enchanting read, it was so well written, with such well developed characters and a storyline that is both unusual and intriguing. It was susoenseful and unpredictable and at times almost lyrical. I really enjoyed this read and it will stay with me for a while.
Rarely does a story as beautiful, dark and heartbreaking as this one come along. The Seawomen captured me entirely, pulling me into the murky waters of fear, isolation, and blind faith. My heart was in my mouth as I was drawn into Esta's tale, her desperation and strength flooding through my veins as I urged her on.
The blend of genres and themes was perfect, the pace just right. With this exquisite debut novel, Timms has proven herself to be an author to watch.
Wow! Margaret Atwood, Chloe Timms is coming for your crown.
While reading this book, I could hear the gasps of Chloe’s agent and editor when they read it for the first time. Their wonder at the sheer beauty of the writing, the clarity of the island of Eden, the lore, the characters. They knew they had something special in their hands. A work of dazzling skill and a compelling story for the ages. If this book doesn’t get onto the Women’s Prize long list, then there’s something wrong with the world.
Can you tell I loved it?
It’s the story of Esta as she grows up on the island of Eden. A fitting name for an island where women are the source of evil, who must be cowed and controlled, who are reduced to the usefulness of their reproductive organs. Women who are threatened with talk of The Seawomen coming to corrupt them, the source of any misfortune that befalls the community. But as Esta grows up, she meets Cal who is from the sea, and she begins to question everything she’s believed.
This is such a powerful allegory for our times on so many levels. I’m simply in awe of the skill. A beautiful mixture of magic, dystopia, folklore and literary fiction. Cannot recommend this beautiful novel enough.
Thank you to netgalley and the publishers for granting me an arc.
The first thing I thought when I started reading Seawomen was that this was a book on cults. In a way that's exactly what it is. The inhabitants live on an Island called Eden's Isle and they have lived there for so long that the original name of the island is now lost to history. There are no records, nothing to say who or what lived on the island before Esta's people first landed there. Led by Father Jessop the inhabitants of Eden's Isle are led to believe that they must remain pure, devoted to God and not give into the temptation of the Seawomen. Creatures who live in the sea and would seek to bring death and destruction to their island.
The island is a highly misogynistic place to live. The men lead and the women are expected to do their part and breed children once the Eldermothers declare them fit to be mothers. In truth, the women are the ones to watch for, the ones who are more likely to give into temptation. If a calamity befalls the island it is the work of the Seawomen and whichever woman on the island whom they have enchanted. Once the woman is found it often leads to a process called the Untethering. A brutal act in which the woman is tied down and cast out to sea to drown. Esta's grandmother forces her to watch each one, to show her what happens to the faithless.
Despite all this Esta is still drawn to the sea in a way she can't describe and one fateful night, chased by a group of boys, she finds herself drowning in the very sea she's drawn to. What shocks her the most is when she's saved not by a seawoman, but a seaman called Cal. A budding ill-fated romance begins to form, which turns Esta's and Cal's whole lives upside down as they struggle to find a way to be together in a world where his very existence is taboo.
I cannot rate this book highly enough - 5 stars is not enough! It is hands down the most beautiful book I have read. Unique and genre-defying - neither fable, folklore or dystopian fantasy but a delightful mix of all three. Esta's story has stayed with me and I feel privileged to have inhabited her world.
Lyrical prose elevates the descriptions of the daily grind of everyday life on Eden's Isle and lightens the dark, suspenseful passages so that the reader feels as if they are being caressed by words even as the words themselves slowly reveal the dark undercurrents of the misogynistic rules and rituals that women on Eden's Isle are forced to abide by.
Told by Esta, the story gradually reveals the disturbing truth to the reader as Esta matures - her understanding of the world she lives in expands just at the moment that her life constricts around her. Both feminist folklore and misogynistic myth, The Seawomen inhabits a beautiful, lyrical literary place that highlights's Chloe Timms's talent as an author.
The Seawomen is a surefire award winner and I would urge everyone to read this compelling tale.
Atmospheric with puritan overtones. Esta was born on the Isle of Eden, the same as mother before her. Eden is a world where religion holds all the cards, those cards are firmly in the hands of men whose word is law. Women are chattels, their worth is designated by how fruitful their uterus is. Following marriage, you have exact.y 12 months to conceive or be returned to the sea and the scheming seawomen who dwell there.
Esta is curious, too curious and listens to the sea tales told, a mixture of folklore, history and a little bit of magic. Her sisters all view one another with suspicion just in case eyes should be cast their way and they are accused. Watching the sea is forbidden for women, had she not that fateful day she would of missed him walking out of the waves.
Fiercely feminist and utterly unique. Timms is a bold new talent. This is a story about oppression, the bonds that tie us - and the lies that break us. Suspenseful and intensely engaging, from Timms' lyrical writing to the genre-bending, unpredictable plot, you won't be able to put this one down.
Wow what a fantastic book ,I have read an early copy on NetGalley Uk where I requested a copy of the book after seeing the author post of her delight about the first reviews she was seeing
I love a dystopian novel and this one has it all ,a misogynist dystopian society set on an island and mermaids and mermen
I was quickly drawn into the story where I was initially unsure if the undersea creatures of their religion were fictional or true beings .It was clear from early on that women were being treated harshly by the ultra religious society but it takes a while for the underlying truths to be laid bare
Island living adds an additional claustrophobia to the story which adds a lot to the feel of the whole book
I’m not much of a fan of romance in novels but did find the relationship between the narrator and merman added an additional element to the story and was ultimately believable
I rather liked the ending of the book which had sufficient ambiguity to be unexpected
In summary I enjoyed this book and liked its uniqueness and individuality it will stay with me
Amazing story and beautiful writing. A religious cult claims that the seawomen living in the water will corrupt the population - a dystopian future with a feminist twist.
The Seawomen is something totally new in dystopian feminist fiction. Beautifully written with a convincing cast of characters, it's set on a remote island with a cult-like leadership. Although completely removed from our own world, it draws so many adept comparisons with it. Timms kept me guessing right to the end!
Wow! This may be my favourite read of the year. The tale of female oppression in the name of a religious faith gave me serious "crucible" vibes but with a fantasy feel. This story had me mesmerized and completely engulfed in the world. The characters were developed so well I could even imagine their smells. It was beautifully written and I wish there was a sequel. I will be thinking about this book a lot despite having finished it.
A horrifying dystopian tale in the vein of The Handmaid’s Tale.
On a remote island, women are required to bear children during a specific year, their motheryear. They are forced into often loveless marriages, and their fate is out of their own hands.
Those who fail to produce a child are thrown to the Seawomen, in a ritual called the Untethering.
Esta is coming up to her own motheryear when she witnesses an untethering which haunts her. Can she escape the same horrific fate?
Thanks so much to NetGalley and the publishers for letting me read an advance copy of this book in exchange for my feedback.
I’m a woman and a mother of two young girls.
Trying to strike a constant balance between teaching them kindness and that ‘no’ is a complete sentence, between finding joy in their autonomy and teaching them to be wary, all through the lens of a 33-year-old female experience is, frankly, debilitating.
I dread the day that I look into their eyes and see that knowing that all women share and all women recognise. I don’t know what to do about it. If there’s anything I can do about it. If this is simply a rite of passage for women and girls.
The Seawomen by Chloe Timms gave me a space to explore some of these disquieting concerns.
Esta is raised by her formidable grandmother on the remote, self-governed island of Eden. Eden’s citizens are bound by its stringent religious laws and customs. Frightening is the public consequences for any who are even perceived to be in transgression. And the accused are always women.
A woman must marry the man chosen for her. And she must conceive a child within her allocated motheryear. The island accepts any failure to conceive as a sure sign from God that she (not her husband, just she) has been corrupted by The Seawomen, mysterious sea-dwellers believed to entice Eden’s women into helping them take over the island for untold evils.
Condemned women are bound to boats and forsaken to drown in the sea in an act called The Untethering. Indulging in vanity, not praying enough and even gazing out to sea are judged as omens.
As Esta uncovers one shocking truth after another about the island, its piety, its patriarchy and the Seawomen themselves, she reckons with danger, internalised dogma and her own heart. In a battle between safety and freedom, Esta must decide what each is ultimately worth.
The Seawomen presents a timely conversation on true societal freedom, why women are centred as objects of control and what each of us overlooks in the name of keeping our places in our respective communities, however uncomfortable the realities of those places may be.
Through the characters of Barrett, Esta’s father and Ingram, Chloe Timms expertly highlights the plight that men also suffer at the hands of patriarchy. However, these are collateral shockwaves borne from the epicentre of devastation inflicted on individual women’s lives in the first place.
Timms shows us it doesn’t start with the worst acts of brutality imaginable. It starts with words and ideas unquestioned, nonsensical attitudes adopted uncritically, fear of being outcast from a group amplified and played upon.
It is frustrating to engage in public discourse around violence against women and girls to be met with “not all men” and “women are violent too”. The Seawomen is the perfect work to encourage defensive minds to peel back further layers.
The conversation is not intended to be accusatory (although it can feel that way when viewed through the lens of limited characters and intended maximum emotional impact on Twitter).
It is meant to encourage society to look for the proverbial Patient Zero. To ask why she is oppressed, by whom, what liberation looks like for her and what we can each individually do to contribute to that liberation. And, most importantly, why we should actually want that liberation to materialise.
The Seawomen uncomfortably reflects back to us our sorrowful complicity in our own oppression, contrastingly from both fearing the alternatives, and from being trained to win approval, reward and power from our oppressors, as seen through Esta, Mull and Norah, and the Eldermothers respectively.
This novel reminds us to get uncomfortable and examine our sources of information with a meticulous eye. Especially sources we have never thought to question and particularly their attitudes towards othered groups.
Which groups are being othered and why? What does our source stand to gain from retaining power over this group, be that economical, geographical or supposedly moral?
What becomes of the othered group when we accept the ideology of our source, lazily trusting them to have done the hard work on our behalf of connecting with the othered group before deciding they are a risk?
What visceral reactions do our bodies produce when we even consider the possibility of disagreeing with our source’s decrees?
The surveillance by which Father Jessop instructed the inhabitants to practice put me in mind of post-WWII Russia, the practices of which time we easily blanch at the thought of.
Yet we carry out and revel in witch huntings and figurative burnings every day, online and in real life. For what we say we don’t like, for what we say we do like, for who we love, for how we dress, for how we raise our children, for what we believe in. It always seems to be women offenders who never rise from the ashes that remain.
On Chloe Timms’s writing, I was enthralled from the off with the raw voice of child Etsa. She narrates the dystopia in that stark, matter-of-fact way only a child can, making the events all the more chilling. It reminded me a lot of Chrissie in Nancy Tucker’s The First Day of Spring.
We follow Esta over a number of years into early adulthood, and with that journey and the different anxieties jostling for her attention comes subtle changes in her narration style and word choices.
So subtle, in fact, that I didn’t realise how much she changes until I went back to the beginning to pick out my favourite quotes! I thought it was genius.
The Seawomen is an important work and I truly hope it is widely read. It asks us to examine who in society has power, how they liberate or oppress with that power, how our individual, everyday actions uphold that power, what it would cost us to topple it and whether we’re brave enough to pay that price.
Many thanks to Chloe Timms, Hodder Studio and Netgalley for the ARC.
The Seawomen is an utterly mesmerising debut, beautifully written and observed through the voice of Esta, a protagonist who is immediately likable and whose childhood/adolescent/adult experiences growing up in a cult-like environment (no spoilers here) have you rooting for her from the very first page. I loved the way that Timms brought the island and its inhabitants to life; I could *taste* the salt of the sea as I read, and picture each unique character not only via their distinct personalities, but also some lovely imagery (one that comes to mind: ‘She had a dimple on her chin, like someone had pushed their thumb into her before she was fully bake.’ DEVINE!).
If you liked The Handmaid’s Tale, if you adored The Village, you’re going to LOVE The Seawomen. *****
What a brilliant debut novel! Chole Timms' The Seawomen is intelligent, beautifully crafted, and hard to put down.
The story is set in a dystopian fictional island named Eden island, inhabited by a religious cult population. The common people are completely cut-off from everywhere else, following a twisted version of the Bible preached by generationally fanatic priests. They are kept in check with the fear of 'The Seawomen', creatures that can morally corrupt the women and call upon the wrath of God. The women's sole purpose is to bear children and look after the household. But, that's not all. Every woman is given a period of 12 months to conceive, failing to do so results in being drowned in the ocean. Not only that, the people here believe that every misfortune, from storm to sickness, is caused by some women coming under the influence of the Seawomen, and she is accordingly hunted and punished. In this place grows up the protagonist Esta. Orphaned as a child, she is brought up by her grandmother, one of the staunchest believers on the island. She slowly learns to question, yearn for freedom, uncovers the systemic corruption and tries to fight back. It is the story of her self-discovery.
The Seawomen reminded me a lot about The Handmaid's Tale, and I say it as a compliment. Things in this book are inspired by real-world events, be it corrupted religious leaders, witch-hunts, or the lack of autonomy for women. That makes it eerily relevant. Esta's journey from someone taught to believe without questions to seeking the truth is beautifully done, with its dilemma and guilt and the realizations of hope and dreams. The ending is perfect with the pitch of the story. I sincerely hope this book and Ms. Timms get the attention they deserve.
Highly recommended! 4.5 stars rounded up.
An island where men rule with an iron rod of religion and women are blamed for everything bad that happens, from the storms that blow in off the sea to a leak in the roof – this is the setting for Chloe Timms’s The Seawomen.
The mortal women who go about their daily island business of producing children and serving their men are under the cosh: ‘We shut our eyes and turn our heads and pray to god: we marry and we lie under men just to live another day.’
But the mythical Seawomen of the title are free, making them all the more reviled by the the island's self appointed leader, Father Jessop, and all the more alluring to Esta, our hero, who gradually realises who the true monsters are.
If this makes The Seawomen sound heavy going, it isn’t. It’s also a love story and a tale of friendships and family secrets. The writing is compelling and pacy, while the descriptions of the sea are sublime. And the concept is perfectly judged - just that touch beyond reality but, actually, not so very distant.
This was a heart wrenching, yet, wondrous tale. I was gripped from the first page and despised the novel’s villain and the constant judgment people living on the island experience. I would definitely read more of Chloe Timms work, it’s just next time, I’ll be prepared and have tissues throughout.
I received an ARC of the book from the publisher, via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
This book asks the very important question of how different Gilead would be if it had mermaids and it absolutely delivered. Beautifully written, this novel was a joy to read from start to end. While it is indeed very reminiscent of The Handmaid's Tale, it succeeds in being its own through it's solid engagement with queer identities by way of its many nuanced and well thought out characters and of course, the highly-evocative island setting. I do wish the pacing was a bit faster, particularly in the earlier bits, but Timms' elegant prose more than makes up for it.
When Esta witnesses a woman Untethered before her eyes she sees a future to fear. Her fate awaits, a loveless marriage, her motheryear declared. But before long, Esta gets a taste of freedom and the insular world she knows begins to unravel. My advice is not to start reading this unless you have time to go to the end! It is compulsive.
If you love anything about the sea, mermaids and some very descriptive writing then this book will be for you.
It is really an emersive read and one that I wanted to just finish in one sitting (but unfortunately real life calls and I had to go to work).
The plot line in this book is very different to what you might expect or usually read. The characters are strongly written and have powerful personalities and I think this added to the atmosphere of the whole book.
Definitely recommend to read.
I have always loved stories that centre around the ocean. So, I really had high hopes when starting this book. I didn't expect how much those expectations would be exceeded! This is my favourite book so far this year. I'm completely in love with it.
Timms has such a beautiful way of writing. I honestly felt like I was there while reading and I felt like I knew the characters in person. I found that most of my dreams even centred around the story, that's how obsessed I've been.
At the same time, I didn't read it as fast as some others because I genuinely didn't want it to end. I'm definitely going to be looking out for Timms's next book!
I don't want to say too much and give away the story but it is so worth a read and not just if you're obsessed with the ocean like I am. I really hope that this book takes off because I need to talk about it!
I wasn’t sure what to expect with this one. Atmospheric sea story with a hint of Atwood amongst the folds. Very cleverly done. Unusual.
I read an ARC from Net Galley and this is my honest review.
Wow! This book is dark and twisty. I’ve always wondered how people fall prey to a cult leader. How fears can control.
Esta lives on a patriarchal island where they fear the seawomen, and every challenge the islanders face is blamed on the sins of their women. Punished by god, they must repent to be saved. Esta sees through the lies and dangerously seeks answers to questions that if she was a good holy girl she’d ignore.
This book reminded me of the darkness of The Handmaids Tale. The way the book made me turn the page out of morbid curious that people could live this way. The history and characters are written so well, it was difficult to put down.
What an amazing debut!
I do not think I have been affected by a book as much as I have reading this, so very poignant and sad and beautifully put together, I was shocked to hear that this was debut novel as it read like a dream. The story is set in a dystopian fictional island named Eden island. The whole story was feminist and brought home a real sense of real world problems. I cannot put what this book means in words, I would highly recommend.
I was drawn to read this book by the amazing cover. Isn't it beautiful? They say never judge a book by its cover but I totally do and in this case, I was right to do so.
I love books that relate to the sea or coast and I'm also somewhat fascinated by cults so this book was a perfect match for me. It's beautifully written and I was immediately hooked by Esta's story and background. There's something in her past that sets her apart from the other women on the island. We get to find this out early in the book but it's not until the end that everything is revealed and also when I don't mind admitting to shedding a few tears.
At times it's an unsettling read and a portrayal of what can happen when prejudice and a lack of acceptance and understanding of others raises its ugly head. Power is held by the island Pastor who uses his religion to manipulate others and to put in place extreme measures against the Seawomen as well as using it to his advantage to retain control over the island women and keep them in their place.
It reminded me of the Handmaid's Tale with similar sinister elements of control.
This is an accomplished debut and the sort of book and writing I'd love to achieve in my debut novel. It's a difficult one to describe - a feminist novel, a tale of cults, manipulation and control, a story of witchy Seawomen, magical realism. I'm not quite sure how to sum it up. Perhaps an element of all these things. It's out on the 14th of June so I'd just suggest you give it a read.
This is definitely 5 stars and I'd happily read more by Chloe Timms.
A gorgeous, evocative, brutal, and mesmerising allegory of both the role of women in society and the destructive power of the rhetoric of ‘otherness’ combined with a compelling page-turner of a plot makes THE SEAWOMEN a truly rare gem. Chloe Timms’s debut is utterly captivating and will stay with me for a very long time.
It's genuinely difficult to believe that this is a debut novel because it's so fantastic for several reasons. This book reminded me of the dystopian feminist narrative that Margaret Atwood generally spearheads. It has that unflinching, eerily relevant feel to it that makes you feel unnerved in the way that religious zealots and ingrained misogyny are just so readily accepted by the characters. The fact that mermaids ("Seawomen") are woven so seamlessly into this is an extra bonus as I have always loved mermaid lore when it is done well.
Esta's development was beautifully crafted throughout the novel, moving from swallowing all of the information she is given without question to beginning the painful journey of questioning what she has always grown up with and forcing herself to see past the smoke and mirrors.
The ending was what made me round this book up to 4.5/5 stars as I devoured the last 50 pages at breakneck speed. It was the perfect level of ambiguity and left me wanting more. I am so excited to see what else Chloe Timms will bring us.
Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
I loved this feminist dystopian novel. It was dark and moody and in some parts out and out brutal. The story starts with brutality and shock and the book keeps up the pace till the end. As with most good books it evoked a strong emotional reaction within me and will stay with me for a long time. Thank you for the opportunity to read the ARC.
Such a memorable read and a story that will not be forgotten quickly by me. Excellent writing. This would be a good bookclub choice.
Esta has lived her whole life on Eden's Isle. She knows there is a whole other world across the sea, but she also knows it is ridden with illness and evil, that this is the place God chose for her people, and, most importantly, that the Seawomen are out there, waiting to destroy everyone's souls if they're careless enough to let them in, so why would she ever want to leave? However, her soul aches with curiosity for the sea, even though she knows it might damn her, and she can't help but question everything she's been taught as she grows older and learns more about her world.
This book is a masterpiece. Like a Greek tragedy, I couldn't stop reading even though I knew there was no way it would end well, that Esta wouldn't magically get everything she wanted by the end. It was bittersweet, and yet the ending was more positive than I could have hoped. I was gripped from the beginning (except for a few chapters around the middle where it suddenly felt slower), and even while not reading I kept thinking about the island and the people living in it. The way Esta slowly realised that things were not as they'd been told, especially that the women were being controlled in the most possibly damaging ways, was heartbreaking. Of course, unlike her I knew that this was a dystopia from the beginning, but the puzzle pieces still clicked in a very satisfying way. I would've loved to know the rest of the characters got their happy (or at least safe) endings, but at the same time it was all cut at the most natural point.
I don't think this is a book I have the emotional capacity to be re-reading anytime soon, but I still heartily recommend it. Definitely look up trigger warnings before starting, but if you think you can handle it go for it. It's tender and sad and hopeful and disquieting and everything a dystopia should be.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for the opportunity to read and review this book.
The Seawomen is an engrossing debut novel about a woman living in a cult-like island community run by a patriarchal leader. The main character, Esta, has always been an outsider, and we follow her journey from shy, sheltered child to rebellious adult. She slowly comes to understand that all the rituals and prayer are means of controlling the islands women.
I had seen other reviews comparing this novel to The Handmaids Tale, but in my opinion the comparison doesn’t do The Seawomen justice. It has shades of other dystopian fiction but it very much creates its own complete world. One of my favourite things about the novel was its strong sense of place. I felt like I could picture the island, it’s coves and cabins, so perfectly it felt like a real location I could go and visit.
Esta’s journey is also deeply compelling, and while the theme is well trodden, the story and the writing gave a fresh new take to this theme. Although the reader is often slightly ahead of Esta in our understanding of how completely the community controls her life I still had no idea how Esta’s story would resolve itself.
If you enjoyed Netflix’s Midnight Mass, Jennie Melamed’s Gather Your Daughters, Sophie Macintosh’s Blue Ticket, and Octavia Butler’s Parable of the Talents you should also love The Seawomen.
I’d like to thank NetGalley for the chance to read the E-arc of this book. Oh my goodness!!! I love mermaid books, it’s no secret but this one just blew me away! Dark, edge of my seat, sinister atmosphere and a strong, female lead questioning her norm, wanting to discover the world beyond. It was powerful, with great characters and evil villains! I loved it! I will be pre-ordering this book for sure!
"This island is built on stories. Tales, lore, lies. They have their reasons. To while away the hours, to hide the truth, to soften, to reassure, to explain, to warn, to scare. Everyone on this island has a story, and this is mine."
A brilliant debut novel. The Seawomen is one of those books I could not put down, and can not stop thinking about. It was full of atmosphere and beautiful written, the story is unique but still finds way to connect and be relatable.
Esta grows up under her grandmother's care after her parents died in a fire accident. They live on Eden a small island where the whole community is religiously devoted to some extremes. Cut off from other islands they believe that women living a sin free life will protect them from the Seawomen, creatures that live in the sea and surround their island. Its said these Seawomen corrupt all and so the island fear the sea and its inhabitants.
The Island women live a strict devot life, remain faithful and are to conceive within 12 months of their appointed motheryear, and if not they will be deemed sinful and thrown to the ocean to drown.
This was a coming of age story for Esta, she grows up alone and afraid of being unworthy, she witnesses women being sacrificed to the sea from a young age which terrifies her. As she grows older she gets a small taste of freedom which leads to knowledge of the outside world which in turn makes her think not everything she has been told about her island or her family might be the whole truth.
I had Handmaids Tale vibes reading this along with The Shape of Water, which mixed together worked really well. Esta is a great character, her journey through childhood into womanhood is so well done, it has so many raw heart-breaking moments.
"Instead of answers, she gave me stories. That was how she boxed me up and sealed my mouth until all those questions had nicked my insides with tiny, invisible scars"
The ending I think was well done, I was worried that it would turn into a boy saves girl and the evil is defeated but that wouldn't have felt right with the tone of the book. The ending to me was sad and beautiful, I don't think it could have ended any better.
The Seawomen was unpredictable, gripping, and fully immersive! It was everything I wanted and I honestly feel like I can't say enough good things about this one, I will be recommending this to everyone.
5 stars and more from me!
"Nameless then, but when I think of that first glimpse now, his name rides through my body. Like waking from death. A gasping heartbeat."
Thanks so much to NetGalley and Hodder & Stoughton for an advanced e-arc.
*Quotes are taken from the arc and may change upon publication.
The Seawomen is dark, thought provoking and unsettling.
Esta lives on an island where women and girls are kept away from the water. If they stray too close, the seawomen will corrupt them, forcing them to do terrible things to the god-fearing people of Eden. When Esta dares to dream of a life unrestricted by the boundaries of her island and the controlling, cult-like leaders, she is thrown into a world of danger and secrets that threaten not just her, but all life on Eden.
Eden is an island of secrets and control, where girls aren't allowed to so much as look at the sea and their behaviour is so tightly controlled that any small misfortune on the island is blamed on women.
This novel offers an interesting, modern twist on witch trials. The concept of motheryears (where a young married woman is told she is ready to have a child - and expected to do so within 12 months, or be declared an agent of the seawomen) is reminiscent of (and as chilling as) the Handmaidens Tale. This novel also one to read if you like Kiran Millwood Hargrave's The Mercies.
Tension runs high throughout and kept me on the edge of my seat. The Seawomen is filled with an atmosphere of suspicion and fear.
It is a beautifully written story of longing, for the sea and for escape, for the ability to make your own choices.
I am lost for words in this review - it is wonderful, deeply feministic and just an overall incredible read! BUY THIS BOOK.
What a brilliant book from Chloe Timms. Dystopian can really be hit or miss for me these days. This was a hit.
The prose was absolutely beautiful and the story had enough of a twist from the usual dystopian fare, to breathe new life into the genre.
The concept is intriguing. I love the island setting. It’s added a real sense of claustrophobia to the story. Esta was also a main character I could get behind and I loved her journey.
The cult on the island - which give women only a few months to conceive - and which blamed women from other things that went wrong on the island - gave me the feels of the Salem witch trials mixed with The Handmaids Tale.
5 stars! Can’t wait to read more from Chloe Timms.
I absolutely loved "The Seawomen" by Chloe Timms. At the beginning you are taught to believe that Seawomen (or mermaids) are evil, and the way they are described, it makes them sound like they are witches. This book is definitely one that you need to pause and reflect on. There is so much going on, multi-layered and many things to discuss. Apart from the brilliant narrative, my one thought I'd like to share with you is the insular nature of living on an island and how you believe what you are told. To me, this drew parallels with the Russian people and the propaganda machine of the Ukraine war. Anyway, this book would be perfect for bookclub!
I absolutely loved this book. There were moments when I thought I knew what was coming and that I had called it, and then the story would twist and slip away from me in ways I wasn't expecting and I was completely carried along by it. The world building was so rich and vivid and I could picture it so clearly. This book has challenged me to think again and again about the world, and the binaries and culture norms that are enforced by culture, and about what perpetuates them, about what rebellion and freedom can look like and about what freedom is. All wrapped up in compelling, compact, beautiful storytelling. Can't wait to read anything by Chloe Timms in future.
What can I say about one of the most amazing books I have read in the last five years. A masterpiece of story telling which transported to Eden Isle, where women are just baby making machines and from little girls they are told they are subservient to men and boys. Dark at times, gothic and terrifying. This is Esta's story from a young child. A Hand Maids Tale by the sea and so much more. Breath taking, thought provoking and highly, highly recommended.
Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC.