When Light Is Like Water

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What to expect

Penguin presents the audiobook edition of When Light is Like Water by Molly McCloskey, read by Katie Beudert.

‘There are few things on earth smaller than this country.’

Alice, a young American on her travels, arrives in the west of Ireland with no plans and no strong attachments – except to her beloved mother, who raised her on her own. She falls in love with an Irishman, marries him, and settles down in a place whose codes she struggles to crack. And then, in the course of a single hot summer, she embarks on an affair that breaks her marriage and sets her life on a new course.

Years later, in the aftermath of her mother’s death, Alice finds herself back in Ireland and contemplating the forces that led her to put down roots and then tear them up again. What drew her to her husband, and what pulled her away? And how do we know when we’ve found our place in the world?

When Light is Like Water is at once a gripping story of passion and ambivalence and a profound meditation on the things that matter most: the definition of love, the value of family and the meaning of home.

Critics Review

  • Adultery is often sentimentalised in fiction, but in her ferociously well written second novel Molly McCloskey gives it to us straight … Each brilliant vignette offers a new angle on Alice’s ballooning sense of disorientation … In spite of its lyrical title and exquisite prose, When Light Is Like Water is a brutal examination of sextual self-delusion. But it also has much that’s memorable to say about love – not the affair kind, but the real thing… McCloskey writes with shattering insight on loss and the way that it can make us feel tender towards the world

    Guardian
  • PowerfulWhen Light Is Like Water is a tender depiction of love and loss that combines the personal pull of a memoir with the precision of a short story … McCloskey’s novel is packed with wisdom, and never heavy-handed with it. The details of the affair and the tawdry aspect of forbidden desire are brilliantly related

    Sunday Times (Ireland)
  • McCloskey describes everything with a luminous exactitude … It’s entirely beguiling

    Mail on Sunday
  • A thoughtful meditation on connection set against the backdrop of a world on the move … Though McCloskey has no shortage of ideas, she also engages the heart: she’s particularly good on the contrariness of our desires … Fans of Anne Enright will find much to admire and enjoy.

    Daily Mail
  • Luminous … As a narrator, Alice is a combination of coolness and intensity, passion and unsentimentality, nostalgia and clear-sightedness

    Irish Times
  • McCloskey has the observational eye of the outsider, able to pinpoint the intricacies and mannerisms of the Irish people and landscape. … But the writing’s the thing. Oh, the writing. McCloskey is the master of the metaphor, the doyenne of the deceptively simple sentence. … Hers is a wondrous turn of phrase, and yet somehow it makes Alice’s life and interiority seem all the more real

    Sunday Business Post

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