The Seawomen by Chloe Timms

Posted On 9 June 2022

Filed under Book Reviews

Comments Dropped 6 responses

My Five Word TL:DR Review : A Powerful Tale of Oppression


Wow this book.  I barely know where to begin to be honest.  Thought provoking.  Anger inducing.  Beautifully written.  Quite literally I’ve been sitting here for an age just trying to form words.  I’ve deleted what I’ve written over and over because it just doesn’t begin to express my feelings and even now I’m puzzled about exactly where to begin and I know that I’m not going to be able to do this book justice.

Set on the Island of Eden this is a story that is as far from paradise as you can imagine.  A small, claustrophobic world where under the guise of religious piety men rule supreme and the women of the island live under the constant threat of suspicion.  Think witch hunts, think neighbour turning upon neighbour, think living under the doctrines of religious zealots where young girls are brought up witnessing atrocities to keep them under a yolk of fear.

By way of background.  My take on the world here is as follows.  The inhabitants of Eden are akin to a religious cult who have left the trappings of the modern world behind to live a more simple life (although this seems to be set in a near future where the sea water has risen).  The people are kept in the dark, and in their place, by a barrage of constant fear mongering, bullying and coercive behaviour with an extra layer of control being added by the natural isolation of the island setting, the fact that people here are not only not taught to swim but are brought up to fear the water and what it contains and any deviations in behaviour are basically seen as evil.

The central characters of the story are Esta.  A young woman, brought up by her grandmother after the death of her parents in a terrible fire.  Esta is marked with a foreboding question mark from an early age., tarnished by the unknown actions of her mother and constantly watched for any deviations in behaviour.  Esta’s grandmother is a staunch believer in the ethos of the island and raises Esta with a stern hand.  Constantly drumming into her the words of the Book they live by and keeping her down by fasting, harsh treatment and lack of love.  Father Jessop is the Island’s leader.  All I can say about this character is there is not one single thing about him that I liked.  He’s absolutely awful and he actually filled me with dread.  He pervades the story with a sense of ever watchful menace.

In terms of the plot.  Well, this is Esta’s story.  We watch her grow from a young, fearful girl, filled with questions and doubt and natural curiosity to a woman who finds out that not everything she’s been told is true.  The islanders are kept in constant fear of the water by the myth of the Seawomen and their evil ways.  The women of Eden are not permitted to go into the water and in fact even looking at it wistfully can lead to vicious rumours.  Like all the other women of the island, Esta will eventually be expected to marry, more often than not an arranged marriage, where she will carry out her duty, look after her husband and bear children.  Everything here is about control.  Lack of teaching to keep people ignorant, even the year that a woman can bear children is managed and if she fails to become pregnant within the year named for her – well, the consequences are dire.  Known as the Untethering, women who fail their ‘motheryear’ are thought to have given in to evil and are basically tied up and sent in a small boat to drown in the strong waves that surround the harbour.  Esta, her natural curiosity driving her to extremes, finds love in an unexpected place and pushes the boundaries but the restraints of the Island are starting to close around her and she’s basically living on borrowed time.

What I really love about this book.  The writing is amazing, evocative and quite hypnotic.  This is a writer who can push your buttons in the most outstanding way, I found myself gripped at times, furious at times, unable to stop reading for the most part (because – sleep).  The fantasy elements are quite minimal, I would say this is magical realism where a lot of the book relies on hearsay and word of mouth.  We do meet creatures from the sea but these meetings are brief so don’t go into this expecting The Little Mermaid.  In fact I love the twist here in that the monsters are those on the land not in the water.  I think this could be read as a dystopian coming of age tale of one woman’s journey to live life on her own terms and conditions or you can read much more into it.  An allegory of oppression, a fear of anything different.

In terms of criticisms.  For myself I don’t have any.  But, I would say that this can be quite a dark read and in the middle the pace definitely slows a little.  But, the ending is packed with tension and there are moments of love and also hope.

Overall, I found this a beautifully written and compelling read.  Shocking, at times anger inducing at others, tense, strained and absolutely unputdownable.

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4.5 of 5 stars


6 Responses to “The Seawomen by Chloe Timms”

  1. Tammy

    Ok this sounds even better than what I imagined. You have definitely tempted me, now I just have to find time to read it😁 Lovely review!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yep, finding time to read all the books – there’s the trick.
      Lynn 😀

  2. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    I’m fascinated by your description of this book and I know I will want to read it, even though I’m aware I will spend most of the time under a pall of anger at this imagined society and the way it treats its women. But it will also mean that I will admire the author’s narrative skills… 🙂

    • @lynnsbooks

      Oh yes, this had me livid at certain points. Such an old fashioned oppressive community.
      Lynn 😀

  3. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Thanks for putting this one on my radar! I’m definitely adding to my reading list.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I was quite hooked with it. Less fantasy than I originally expected but it was quite gripping, in an annoying and horrifying way.
      Lynn 😀

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