Originally published: August 2018 (this edition April 2019)
Author: S K Perry
Published by: Melville House
Genre: Literary Fiction
Length: 224 pages
Reading dates: 10-12 May 2019
After the death of her boyfriend Sam in a car accident, 23 year old Holly moves from London to Brighton in at attempt to escape from her grief. She thought she wanted solitude but she finds this isn’t helping as she thought it would. Finding herself sitting on a bench overlooking the sea, wondering what to do next, she meets Frank a retired gay magician. Frank has a eclectic circle of friends, all of whom have experienced grief and sadness, and as Holly joins this group, she begins to learn to live again.
This was an unusual and very sad book as it is essentially just a year of Holly’s life and how she learns to live with her loss. It is unusual to read about the grief of someone so young – grief of loosing a partner generally comes to us much older than 23. Holly rents a room in Kemptown and works as a cleaner and piano teacher and through the friends she makes through Frank, she is able to grieve. Frank himself is a talented magician and does some great tricks which I loved (I secretly like to believe magic is real). He has lost his partner Ian, 6 years previously. Through the book club he runs, she also meets Gabriella who lost her young son to Leukaemia and Holly spends her Sunday’s with her learning to cook. Ellie and Danny (who are around Holly’s age) take her under their wings and take her to pub quiz’s, parties and nights out.
Told in the first person, the novel details Holly’s life in the present but also looks back to her life with Sam so we get to know the person he was too and the life they had together, how he died and how it affected their other family and friends.
The writing in this is beautiful, the chapters are short and it has a lyrical quality about it – the fact the whole book is about Holly’s grief means it is able to linger on the pain she feels. But ultimately, Let Me Be Like Water is about the redemptive power of friendship.
City Reads 2019 Event
Let Me Be Like Water was the Brighton City Reads choice for 2019. City Reads is an annual BIG READ for adults, which aims to spread a love of books and ideas to the widest possible audience across Brighton & Hove (and beyond). The concept is simple: one book by one author is selected for the whole community to read, discuss, debate and creatively engage with in a series of special events, workshops and performances.
On 12th May I was able to attend an event listening to S K Perry talk about the book and it was interesting to find out some more about the writing of this debut. Brighton is my home town (or near enough) and I loved that is was set here – I was convinced the author must have lived here for at least a short period of her life as she seemed to know the city so well but apparently not! The other thing I was sure of is that she must have lost someone close to her to be able to write so eloquently on the subject of bereavement but again, she hasn’t!
A really talented writer, I’m pleased to have read this and look forward to see what she does in the future.
The 2018 City Reads choice was Rose Tremain’s Sacred Country which is reviewed here.
About the author:
S. K. Perry was born in Croydon in 1990. She has been a resident artist at the Roundhouse in Camden, a Young Writer in Residence for Cityread, London and has delivered creative writing workshops for PEN International.
She was longlisted for London’s Young Poet Laureate in 2013 and is the author of the poetry collection Curious Hands: 24 Hours in Soho. Let Me Be Like Water is her first novel. She currently lives in Leeds and is working on her second novel.