The Shaping of Water is a character-driven story, following the different but overlapping lives of those who are connected to a ramshackle cottage by a man-made lake in Central Africa during the Liberation wars across its region. The characters are connected in ways they can't imagine by past secrets and future tragedies. Will these connections remain hidden or be uncovered by the characters' decisions and actions?
From Patrick the Jesuit, to Andy the Selous Scout; from Marielise, lover of revolutionaries Jo and Luke, to Margaret the banker's wife; from Natombi and Milimo whose home is drowned by the lake, to Manda, a young woman trying to make her marriage work; the characters are shaped by the rising lake and increasing violence in Africa.
The dramatic plot is about damage and survival, passion and uncertainty, adaptation and love, set against a background of escalating war. It tells the story of a world turned upside-down by cynical politicians and reinvented by the courage of ordinary people. Enriched by a detailed knowledge of the history, geography and environment of the region and the variety of its fully realised characters, this book has wide appeal.
The novel is imbued with the light, colour and flavour of the landscape, of the lake and of the cottage. The reader will discover new worlds through this riveting novel and remember them long afterwards.
The author has spent most of her life in Africa and lived through the events described in this book. Unique in its context, breadth and depth of insight into a particular period of time, in a little-explored place, this book is economic in style, evocative and well written.
The Shaping of Water is a good read with characters and a plot that will affect your heart, challenge your ideas, and remain in your memory. It will appeal to intelligent and thoughtful lovers of good fiction, travellers and explorers - both actual and armchair.
Born on an African farm in 1943, Ruth Hartley attended Art School in Cape Town. She has travelled back and forth between the UK and Africa over her life, spending her most recent years travelling throughout Europe. She now lives in France.