I was very excited to receive a review copy of Sara Bailey’s debut novel, Dark Water. Set in the beautiful Orkney Islands, it promised a psychological tale of friendship and obsession, and I couldn’t wait to dive in.
‘You were mine then. In that moment before we tasted sex, while we were still vestal pure. You were mine, body and soul. It was such a fleeting moment, and we both knew it was going, drifting out of our grasp like dandelion seeds on a summer’s day. I held you, made you promise: never leave me; never let me go.’
The story begins with Helena, a woman who returns to her childhood home in Orkney to be with her father who is seriously ill. But her father’s deteriorating health is not the only thing on Helena’s mind, and when she arrives memories of her past creep to the surface, memories she has spent years trying to diminish. She is haunted by the disappearance of her friend, Anastasia. Helena and Anastasia were best friends who shared everything, and were barely apart. So when Anastasia vanished following a swimming incident, Helena’s world was thrown apart. Back in Orkney years later, Helena still struggles to come to terms with her loss, to find closure. She sees Anastasia wherever she goes, picturing her all over the town, a spirit yet to fade and a night she struggles to forget. And as Helena cares for her father she also encounters other faces from her past, including those who may help her to unravel the truth…
‘I kept prodding memories, aching for some feeling to come back. I wanted to cry. Was that too much to ask?’
I found Dark Water to be a compelling read. I was immediately hooked by this story and eager to find out what happened, and to uncover the circumstances surrounding Anastasia’s disappearance. Alternating between the past and present we see Helena and Anastasia’s friendship develop as they negotiate school life, friendship and boys as they plan their futures together. We also get to see Helena today as a woman who has achieved yet cannot leave unwanted memories behind. I liked this contrast between the attitudes from her teen years and the present day. Bailey has captured the emotions associated with adolescence perfectly – the friendships, teen angst, first love and sexual encounters. I was interested to find out more about the characters past and how it had shaped the present and there was a sense of unease throughout – I was never quite sure what might be revealed, and there were little details along the way that surprised me, leading to a brilliant conclusion which was completely unexpected!
‘We weren’t girls anymore, we weren’t even women – we were sea creatures, something not quite human.’
I loved Dark Water, and found it to be an impressive, gripping debut that I struggled to put down. It is a tense psychological tale of friendship, love, obsession and moving on.
Dark Water was published on 3rd October 2016 by Nightingale Editions. Many thanks to Jacqui Lofthouse at Nightingale Editions for providing a copy for review.