Title: The Well
Author: Catherine Chanter
A drought-ridden, riot-threatened country; a sinister religious cult; a child’s unsolved murder; and a culture of surveillance. Catherine Chanter’s first novel has the ingredients of a dystopian nightmare yet it’s more a straightforward thriller – albert a sensuously written one… a strong literary page turner.
Ruth Ardingly has just been released from prison to serve out a sentence of house arrest for arson and suspected murder at her farm, The Well. Beyond its borders, some people whisper she is a witch; others a messiah. For as soon as Ruth returns to The Well, rain begins to fall on the farm. And it has not rained anywhere else in the country in over three years.
When I picked up this book in the bookstore I read the synopsis at the back and immediately added it to my To-Read list. The image in my head with words like “a sinister religious cult; a child’s unsolved murder; and a culture of surveillance” gave an action packed novel filled with zealous crazies, suspense and enough thrills to shame a rollercoaster but in the end I was sourly disappointed.
The novel is slow paced and too descriptive, making it long-winded at times where a simple scene spans a page or more. It makes sense though that this would happen considering the novel is about a woman under house arrest with hardly anything to do in her spare time but look back in retrospect at the events leading up to her incarceration. This would include introducing the supposed “sinister religious cult”, meeting the child that would eventually lead to the “child’s unsolved murder” and seeing the supposed “culture of surveillance”.
The novel is well written though, able to switch between the past and the present fluidly without losing me. I know one of my weakness in writing is exactly that and Catherine Chanter executed it perfectly. The story also progresses well, delving into the mind of a woman who is so lost in the events around her that she sometimes loses perspective and you can’t help feeling sorry for her. The other characters also have substance and don’t feel like unnecessary additions in the overall novel.
Rating: 3 out of 5