Book Review: Watermark by Christy Ann Conlin

Watermark – Christy Ann Conlin (House of Anansi, 2019)

Here we have a collection of short stories, several of them loosely linked together by place and at least a couple of characters that show up more than once. Nova Scotia and the Bay of Fundy feature heavily and the whole collection is infused with what the book’s blurb as “gritty and lyrical”. I see what they’re going for but the words that came to my mind were more like “emo and angsty”.

This feeling began for me in the second story, titled “Dead Time” which is told from the perspective of a teenager awaiting trial for murder. Her voice is juvenile, which makes sense, but the story never transcends that teenage voice to offer us a greater and more chilling perspective. From there I couldn’t shake the feeling of wanting more. Of wanting stories that were a little more fleshed out, that held deeper hints of darkness behind rather than continuously prodding the reader to see the obvious darkness blatantly written out.

The narrators of each story, or at least the protagonist of each, are quite similar too and so now, a couple of weeks later, the stories blur. They are almost all young women, usually trying to get away from their small Nova Scotia town, usually drawn back towards it by some secret or unfinished business. On the one hand, perhaps this was part of Conlin’s intent in creating a series of connected stories, set in and around one area. On the other hand, it isn’t quite working from this reader’s perspective and I would have then preferred the links to be more obvious.

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7 thoughts on “Book Review: Watermark by Christy Ann Conlin”

    1. I love them too! They always seem so clever when done well. The connections here never really paid off though so I just ended up wanting more.

  1. Hmmm linked stories walk such a fine line. I prefer to read collections that have widely different tones to them, just because it feels like I get to experience the author’s breadth of talent better.

  2. I definitely liked these stories more than you did. Maybe because I didn’t think of them as linked? Even though, as you say, there are a few overlapping characters and themes. I’ve also read both of her novels, and could see overlapping characters from those, as well, which I enjoyed. I haven’t fully thought about this book or written about it yet – review still to come!

    1. The blurb on the book described them as linked, otherwise I don’t think it would have stood out to me the way it did. Overall though they just lacked a certain oomph for me. Will be interested to read your review though!

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