The Eyes Of Water by Alison Littlewood. Book review

THE EYES OF WATER by Alison Littlewood, Spectral Press, limited edition h/b of 100, pricing not available,

Reviewed by Glen Mehn

The Eyes of Water comes in at all of 25 pages. I don’t think we’ve seen enough of novelette and novella forms in recent decades, and to my mind, they’re a welcome return to form – Spectral Press are delivering in this, bringing short-form chapbooks of creepy tales, including this one, which is already sold out. We can but hope for an ebook version.

Littlewood gives us Alex, a scuba diver on what appears to be a long dive trip in Mexico. The excitement of the dive is clearly wearing off by the start of the novelette. He meets his childhood friend Rick for a joyful swim in the centre of a cenoté – a place where rainwater collects and the source of freshwater for local people. Cenotés are both water sources as well as were sacred to the Mayans, precursors of modern Mexicans. Alex’s reunion with Rick sets off a chain of events that will prove profound to Alex’s life.

This is a perfect chapbook to read over lunch or a sunny afternoon in the park – it’s not a simple task to build real, engaging characters and situations in something this short which will hold our attention this long – Littlewood should be commended for her deft skill. Her sentence-level writing and her story structure builds a real world on top of one we already know.

She manages to capture the weariness of the tourist who’s seen it all – whether visiting world famous sites below the water or trudging down a dusty lane lined with tat sellers on the side. Alex is a timid diver, and has to try new, dangerous, life-threatening things – like diving a helocline (the place where salt and freshwater mix in a cave) and removing one’s tanks. There is a real sense of atmosphere and foreboding created in this book which builds towards its conclusion. While there may not be a massive surprise, there is closure and finality and a real sense of place.

‘Eyes of Water’ is a worthy addition to an ereader, and worth seeking out in physical for the collectible-obsessed, especially if you loved her earlier novel ‘A Cold Season‘.