I had no idea what I was getting into when I started Dane Hucklebridge’s Castle of Water. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn’t a wistful, beautiful, quirky, sad love story. I read this book in one long sitting because I couldn’t tear myself away. Castle of Water completely knocked my socks off.
In the opening chapter of Castle of Water, we learn that Barry Bleecker is famous for some reason. He’s famous enough for people to follow him through Paris to see what he’ll do. We also learn that he’s a solitary man of habits and very concerned about his contacts. The reason for all this, we soon find out, is that he was in a plane crash and was stranded on an unnamed island near the Marquesas for three years. He wasn’t alone; he was marooned with Sophie, a young French widow.
Castle of Water moves back and forth in time from twelve years after Barry got off the island to the three years he and Sophie spent together. Huckelbridge includes short chapter-long asides to explain the strange circumstances of their odyssey that lend to the gentle humor of the book. (I suspect some readers might find it a bit twee, but I had a good time.) The joy of the book comes from watching Barry and Sophie squabble over supplies and ideas. They truly drive each other insane, this American and this Française, before they fall in love.
Huckelbridge includes plenty of hints that Barry and Sophie won’t have a happily ever after, but the end of the book still hit me like a ton of literary bricks. The complex emotions I felt at the conclusion reminded me a lot of what I felt when I read The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, by Gabrielle Zevin, one of my favorite books of recent years. This short novel had everything I didn’t know I was looking for since I read A.J. Fikry. I plan on recommending this book a lot.
I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley for review consideration.