Water Shall Refuse Them

Water Shall Refuse Them

The heatwave of 1976. Following the accidental drowning of her sister, sixteen-year-old Nif and her family move to a small village on the Welsh borders to escape their grief. But rural seclusion doesn't bring any relief. As her family unravels, Nif begins to put together her own form of witchcraft - collecting talismans from the sun-starved land. That is, until she meets M...

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Title:Water Shall Refuse Them
Author:Lucie McKnight Hardy
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Edition Language:English

Water Shall Refuse Them Reviews

  • Blair

    It’s the summer of 1976, the year of an infamous heatwave in the UK, and teenage Nif and her family – mum, dad and little brother Lorry – are spending a month in a cottage on the Welsh borders. Together, they’re living through the aftermath of a shared tragedy; the getaway is supposed to be a chance to recalibrate. Left largely to her own devices, Nif pairs up with the strange boy next door, Mally. Meanwhile, her parents both (for very different reasons) become fascinated by Mally's mother.

    The a

    It’s the summer of 1976, the year of an infamous heatwave in the UK, and teenage Nif and her family – mum, dad and little brother Lorry – are spending a month in a cottage on the Welsh borders. Together, they’re living through the aftermath of a shared tragedy; the getaway is supposed to be a chance to recalibrate. Left largely to her own devices, Nif pairs up with the strange boy next door, Mally. Meanwhile, her parents both (for very different reasons) become fascinated by Mally's mother.

    The atmosphere is palpable in Lucie McKnight Hardy’s debut novel. The unnamed village is an inward-looking place where both Nif’s family and Mally’s are regarded as outsiders. Nif’s character is revealed in snatches, the same way she, believing she’s ugly, will only take brief glances at her own reflection. The summer heat does what summer heat does: makes everything feel slightly unreal, as though actions don't have the consequences they usually would.

    When you’re reading it, you’re

    the burning sun, the baked earth, the sluggish inertia of too-hot weather. When you’re not reading it, you’re thinking about it.

    Ambiguity is key to such atmosphere, and McKnight Hardy does it brilliantly. Take the opening paragraphs, in which Nif describes cradling a head in her lap during the car journey to Wales. Any explanation for the head is deliberately avoided, and it says a lot about the general mood that you can believe, if only for a couple of pages, that she might actually be holding a severed human head. There’s frequently a destabilising queasiness to the details here, such as Lorry’s ‘wounds’ and the repeated mentions of Nif’s unwashed smell. Nif also follows ‘the Creed’, an invented belief system – her way of managing what seems to be obsessive-compulsive disorder – and its demands are often disturbing. (Avoid this book if you are particularly sensitive to scenes involving animal cruelty.)

    I didn’t want to spend too much time going on about the influence of folk horror – it’s an element sure to be discussed in any review of the book. But having

    the genre recently, and watched various films and TV from its 1970s heyday, it kept playing on my mind. In lesser hands, the story could’ve seemed like a retread of the genre's most obvious beats: rural setting + insular community with unconventional customs + oblivious outsiders. Nif’s buried anxieties are focused on a modern object (the telephone on which her mother receives a literally fatal call) and Mally’s outsider status has a historical precedent (the perceived sins of his ancestors). At times, the nods to folk horror cliches are almost cheeky; at this point, it takes both chutzpah and real talent to successfully pull off an ‘unwelcoming locals at the village pub’ scene! Yet it all works perfectly.

    In terms of modern fiction, I found it impossible to read

    without thinking about Andrew Michael Hurley’s

    Both books are possessed of the same slow-burn mood of creeping dread and weirdness, both understand the importance of setting a folk horror story in the genre’s defining era, and both use religious allusions to add light and shade to their characters’ ritualistic practices. The two novels are like brother and sister, Hurley’s grey and dreary, McKnight Hardy’s hot and hazy.

    has been quietly gathering hype on social media, and I have to say it’s justified. This is one of those extraordinarily accomplished debut novels that doesn't feel like a debut at all. It's not the sort of book every reader will click with, but if you

    ‘get’ it, you’ll quickly find yourself totally transfixed. I read most of it in the sunshine, and the rain started just as I reached the final chapter, and I finished the book feeling empty and bereft, but also like I’d had a near-perfect reading experience.

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  • Dan Coxon

    Having been a fan of Lucie McKnight Hardy's stories for some time, I couldn't wait to read this debut novel - and I wasn't disappointed. The term 'Folk Horror' will be used in many reviews, and rightly so. This is a novel that taps into local folklore and insular rural societies, spinning an unsettling yarn that's set in the mid-70s but feels unmistakably contemporary in its themes and concerns. Beyond that, though, I was reminded most strongly of Iain Banks's The Wasp Factory, with its Gothic r

    Having been a fan of Lucie McKnight Hardy's stories for some time, I couldn't wait to read this debut novel - and I wasn't disappointed. The term 'Folk Horror' will be used in many reviews, and rightly so. This is a novel that taps into local folklore and insular rural societies, spinning an unsettling yarn that's set in the mid-70s but feels unmistakably contemporary in its themes and concerns. Beyond that, though, I was reminded most strongly of Iain Banks's The Wasp Factory, with its Gothic reimagining of a childhood gone feral, complete with its own rituals, totems, and the occasional sadistic twist. Brilliant stuff - the wait was worth it.

  • Siobhan

    Water Shall Refuse Them is an retro coming-of-age novel with a horror edge, set in a heatwave in 1970s rural Wales. Sixteen-year-old Nif, her little brother Lorry, and her parents are spending the summer in a cottage in Wales following the death of her sister. Instead of healing, the sweltering atmosphere and isolation only exacerbates their problems: her mother's grief, her father's frustration, Nif's own belief in strange rituals that might bring her answers. Nif meets a strange teenage boy, M

    Water Shall Refuse Them is an retro coming-of-age novel with a horror edge, set in a heatwave in 1970s rural Wales. Sixteen-year-old Nif, her little brother Lorry, and her parents are spending the summer in a cottage in Wales following the death of her sister. Instead of healing, the sweltering atmosphere and isolation only exacerbates their problems: her mother's grief, her father's frustration, Nif's own belief in strange rituals that might bring her answers. Nif meets a strange teenage boy, Mally, who has his own secrets, but neither he nor his mother Janet seem to be quite what the family need and the locals seem to hate them.

    The sense of atmosphere in the novel is impressive and unnerving, a kind of haze where heat and grief and twisted rituals float like logic. The combination of mundane and folk horror elements with retro coming-of-age give the story a real charge, and it feels like a very British twist on a style that may seem more American, from authors like Shirley Jackson. Grief and adolescence are made strange, whilst the logic of superstition and the power of belief are almost tangible. The senses are crucial too, with sound and scent prevalent and there being a feeling of the heatwave hanging over the entire story.

    This is a debut novel that allows for ambiguity and doesn't tell the reader everything, building up atmosphere and a really eerie sense of what might happen. In her wild and unsettled protagonist, Lucie McKnight Hardy creates a character both sympathetic and menacing, and in some ways the whole novel feels like following a trail littered with bad omens, much like the dead animals littered throughout the book. The writing and atmosphere is what really makes it memorable, as well as the unnerving line between superstitious horror and twisted human nature and emotion.

  • Alice Slater

    I absolutely loved this witchy ritualistic obsessive coming of age story, set in a remote English village during the heatwave of 1976. Languid, dark, tragic: it’s like The Wasp Factory meets The Girls, but also kind of like nothing else.

  • Robert

    At the moment Malta is going through a heatwave. When you go out the sun’s heat pounds at your head, sweat drips off you and everything is hazy. Thankfully I read Water Shall Refuse them in my air-conditioned living room but I could definitely relate to the book.

    The setting is the UK heatwave of 1976, the one that lasted a month and a half and temperatures went as high as 36 C. Nif’s (short for Jennifer) family (mother,father and younger brother) have just suffered a tragedy and are staying in r

    At the moment Malta is going through a heatwave. When you go out the sun’s heat pounds at your head, sweat drips off you and everything is hazy. Thankfully I read Water Shall Refuse them in my air-conditioned living room but I could definitely relate to the book.

    The setting is the UK heatwave of 1976, the one that lasted a month and a half and temperatures went as high as 36 C. Nif’s (short for Jennifer) family (mother,father and younger brother) have just suffered a tragedy and are staying in rural Wales for a month in order to sort themselves out. Nif already has started some eccentric habits which she takes with her on this trip.

    Nif then meets Mal and she discovers a kindred soul and in the process uncover the secrets the village and unearth some peculiarities.

    Water Shall Refuse Them has a creepy factor which gets more intense as secrets are revealed. Mcknight cleverly does not reveal everything in the first chapter, rather teasing the reader and dropping clues and exposing secrets gradually. As I read the last half of the novel in the dark, I do admit that I did feel uneasy, especially during the conclusion. At times I was reminded of the looming sinister atmosphere that Iain Banks’ Wasp factory exudes, with the pastoral traces of The Wicker Man and the intensity of Ari Aster’s Hereditary, all reference points are positive for me.

    I enjoyed reading Water Shall Refuse Them. In a time where coming of age stories are common it’s refreshing to find one that stands out. Not only does this debut suck you in from page one but also manages to evoke that hot feeling of a heatwave. An immersive novel.

  • Charles Thorpe

    I couldn't put this book down. There's a centripetal force to the narrative that pulls you with it, and you find you're being sucked deeper and deeper toward the center of a mystery, a dark and nasty black hole. It left me feeling profoundly unsettled. It somehow taps into feelings that I think everyone experiences in childhood about order and chaos and the excitement and fear of transgression. It explores the mystery of human beings and who they really are and can they be trusted. The writing m

    I couldn't put this book down. There's a centripetal force to the narrative that pulls you with it, and you find you're being sucked deeper and deeper toward the center of a mystery, a dark and nasty black hole. It left me feeling profoundly unsettled. It somehow taps into feelings that I think everyone experiences in childhood about order and chaos and the excitement and fear of transgression. It explores the mystery of human beings and who they really are and can they be trusted. The writing manages to totally envelop the reader in the mind of the protagonist.

  • Daniel Carpenter

    Fascinating and creepy folk horror novel set during a heatwave in the 70's. McKnight Hardy does a great job building the tension between outsiders in a small Welsh town and the fervently religious townsfolk. There are shades of Shirley Jackson and, as other reviewers have pointed out, The Wasp Factory about this - and there is a distinct gothic vibe throughout that Iain Banks' debut also shares, but this is less interested in the macabre Gorey set pieces that The Wasp Factory indulges in, opting

    Fascinating and creepy folk horror novel set during a heatwave in the 70's. McKnight Hardy does a great job building the tension between outsiders in a small Welsh town and the fervently religious townsfolk. There are shades of Shirley Jackson and, as other reviewers have pointed out, The Wasp Factory about this - and there is a distinct gothic vibe throughout that Iain Banks' debut also shares, but this is less interested in the macabre Gorey set pieces that The Wasp Factory indulges in, opting instead for a slower burn, with bags of atmosphere to boot.

  • Andy Weston

    Folk tales seem to be the vibe at the moment, this following hot on the heels of the likes of

    and

    . Their settings in the British countryside remind us that such stories are all a part of our heritage, often passed on across generations just by word of mouth.

    Set an unnamed Welsh town, this is a disturbing story that works well, as from the start the writing is full of ambiguity, the reader drip-fed information that just enables a picture to be built up of what is going on. T

    Folk tales seem to be the vibe at the moment, this following hot on the heels of the likes of

    and

    . Their settings in the British countryside remind us that such stories are all a part of our heritage, often passed on across generations just by word of mouth.

    Set an unnamed Welsh town, this is a disturbing story that works well, as from the start the writing is full of ambiguity, the reader drip-fed information that just enables a picture to be built up of what is going on. There’s a slow start and it isn’t until the last chapters that the pace increases to a crescendo of the monstrous variety.

  • Horror DNA

    Depending on where you are in the world, you’re most likely experiencing some unusual weather (hello, climate change). Here in the UK we’re complaining about the soaring heat and lack of rain (our poor grass!), we love a moan, especially when it comes to weather. So the timing of Lucie Mcknight Hardy’s first novel is quite perfect. The heatwave depicted in Water Shall Refuse Them is written is such detail that sweat could be dripping from the pages, the suffocating heat intensifies the spirallin

    Depending on where you are in the world, you’re most likely experiencing some unusual weather (hello, climate change). Here in the UK we’re complaining about the soaring heat and lack of rain (our poor grass!), we love a moan, especially when it comes to weather. So the timing of Lucie Mcknight Hardy’s first novel is quite perfect. The heatwave depicted in Water Shall Refuse Them is written is such detail that sweat could be dripping from the pages, the suffocating heat intensifies the spiralling relationships in the story, making it a claustrophobic read that escalates as the book progresses.

    You can read Charlotte's full review at Horror DNA by

    .

  • Daniel

    I'm sorry but this re-telling of Scooby Doo on Zombie Island was just too predictable, unrealised and slightly naff.

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