When Zeno follows wealthy Catherine Steiner one evening his whole world changes. After following her to Budapest, they embark on a love affair which escalates beyond what either of them imagined. The struggle they have only becomes more dangerous when the Nazis come to Hungary and they have to face a country of people whose views have changed. Friends become enemies with anti-Semitism, and no one can be trusted.
At its heart, this is a love story, though definitely not easy-reading or relaxing. Reading this brought my attention to many little details that are often forgotten when we view large events such as WWII, breaking it down into individual lives and the struggles against changing perceptions. I don’t have any knowledge of Hungary which I felt did diminish the story for me a little as a lot of it felt like the author expects the reader to recognize the places. This is unfortunate as this particular story is tied very strongly to the country and the characters’ attachment to it which simply wasn’t shown as much as, I feel, it could have been. While there is the backdrop of WWII, the majority of the story happens before major political changes suddenly happen. For me this was very important, as while WWII interests me, that isn’t why I chose to read this book. Honestly I wasn’t sure what I was expecting other than a detailed vision of a character or two which was definitely provided.
My main issue with this novel is the languid pace of the story-telling itself. I can see how this style complements this particular story; however I often found myself not wanting to return to the book due to its slowness and lack of excitement. I feel it would have benefited from including a few sections where the speed of the story picks up a little, as, while it is definitely a bonus to take time reading a book, I feel The Skin of Water took it to an extreme that most people will struggle with.
In particular I loved how the main character, Zeno, sees the world through filming it and how this clearly came across in the story. For me, it added interest and allows the reader to see certain scenes as he sees it when watching back over his edited films. In a way this means that the most important scenes are ‘seen’ twice by the reader which allows us to really get to know Zeno from seeing his creative reaction to what is happening to him.
This isn’t a book for those looking for a quick read or a happily-ever-after romance. I think that people who love to explore characters and countries would likely enjoy reading The Skin of Water, as well as those who really want to slow down and experience another time and place.
[Disclaimer: I received this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.]
No doubt, it is one of the most engaging books I have come across in a long time. In my vivarious appetite for written words, I sample a lot of works by Indie authors and I regularly feature them on my blog and post my reviews if they are worthy. It is, however, not often that I would recommend a book to my husband, before I even finish reading it.
The Skin of Water, a beautifully told romance between an elegant, enchanting French woman and a young, handsome Hungarian youth, whose passionate affair will set your heart on fire. Despite their age difference, and the fact that she was married to an incredibly wealthy and influential industrialist, the illicit affair between Catherine and Zeno began and blossomed, transcending the boundaries of their many differences includimng that of class. However, their fate was sealed by the times they lived in, an unforgettable historical period when Germany was at war with the best part of Europe, and Hungary, where the story was set, was no exception.
I loved revisiting Hungary through the pages. I went to Budapest one winter, to celebrate the New Year, coincidently with my German boyfriend at the time and his friends. I felt her wintry chill, although I very much enjoyed her amazing sights, on both Buda and Pest. It has been a wonderful experience for me personally to follow Zeno through his lenses, with the entrancing historical backdrop, and heart-tugging romance between the two protagonists.
G.S. Johnston did a brilliant job bringing these characters alive, flesh and blood, their stories tantalising and exquisite, their uncertain future intrinsically linked to that of a nation and of many nations, in fact.
The author expertly built in an intrigue, which drew me in immediately, leading me along to an eventual climax of events which had me in eager anticipation and great expectation, although I did not know what exactly to expect. I was in for the ride, wherever that may take me.
This is story-telling at its very best - it has kept my attention all the way. There are books which have a fantastic start but eventually fall short of readers' expectations, and others take forever to get to the point and many readers simply give up half way. For me, The Skin of Water is a wonderful read from beginning to end, my interest never sagging for a moment. I could not wait to get to the final pages and when it eventually did, I wish there were more.
Would I recommend this book? You bet I would, without hesitation. I hope that you would not hesitate in indulging your senses in this amazing book, savouring its sheer beauty of words, characters and stories of another time, a time which we should be reminded of often and etched in our memories forever.
Hungary towards the end of WW2. I was drawn into the the novel immediately and in fact, I found it quite hard to put down. The author has done an excellent job in re-creating what it must have been like during that time, the fear, the uncertainty, the pitting of brother against brother - all tied together with the thread of forbidden love. I would have been quite happy for the book to have ended in 1946, but the later section, set in 2010, actually gave the story closure and the emotions expressed in this part of the novel were heartbreaking yet satisfying at the same time. The title is so apt for this book and especially reflects how things must have been during that time. All in all, this is a poignant, beautifully crafted novel.
I received a free copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.