Ruth and Mark moved to The Well to start a new life in the country. Yet in the grip of the worst drought Britain has ever seen, their farm continues to prosper. As their neighbours struggle to feed their livestock and water their crops, The Well continues to be blessed with green and plentiful pastures. Suspicion soon starts to grow; are they stealing water? Is Ruth a witch? The escalation from quiet retreat to being the centre of the nation’s attention is swift and will end in tragedy.
Another book group read, The Well had an interesting premise and plenty of food for thought but boy did it waffle on in parts and I’ll admit to skim reading some of the middle. Previously a short story writer, some of Catherine’s prose is beautiful but I think it needed to be much more tightly edited.
It does raise the interesting question whether to give up your home for the greater good or hang onto it for your own survival. We’d all like to think we would be generous in this situation but what if handing your property over meant starvation for yourself? Unfortunately the novel doesn’t go into too much detail about what is going on in the rest of Britain, so it feels very insular and that they might be making a bit too much fuss over sharing.
I instantly took a dislike to the main characters due to their selfishness. OK it’s at the start of the drought that they move out of London but Ruth talks of marrows and apples left to rot because they can’t eat them all. No wonder the locals didn’t like them, even if they didn’t want to give them away they could have sold them or made cider and chutney. Mark refuses to run any pipes into neighbouring properties to share their plentiful water. It’s the old story of entitled city folk moving to the country and feeling like the locals should accommodate them rather than the other way round.
Little did I know when we ploughed our time and money into renovating the barn that we were building a barracks for my own guards.
In harsh times there will always be people who take advantage as well as people who turn to religion for reassurance. About halfway through the book the Sisters of the Jericho Rose turn up, a group of women who believe Ruth is their chosen one and women shall inherit the earth. They are not happy that Ruth’s grandson is set to inherit their holy land, The Well.
Mark is happy to escape the city, partly because it was his dream to be able to work the land, but also to escape prejudice. A false accusation at work, unwanted press attention and a suspicion placed that will never go away. There is an absolutely amazing scene which can be read two ways, one if you believe what he was accused of, the other perfectly innocent. It was interesting to explore the damage those kind of allegations can do to an innocent man.
My main problem with The Well was the fact so much was given away right at the start. We know a child is dead and Ruth is under suspicion. We know she was in prison for endangering The Well, a crucial source of water under the Drought Emergency Regulations Act. We know Mark is gone and the sisters are untrustworthy. The story alternates between the present where Ruth is serving a strange kind of house arrest, and the past events which led her there. I was waiting the whole book for the person who I thought did it to be revealed and what a surprise it was them. So predictable and a bit of a cop-out ending in regards to the national state of emergency.
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Also reviewed @ For Winter Nights
Book Source: Purchased