Beautifully descriptive and thrillingly captivating, this novel, by Whitbread Prize-winning author Lindsay Clarke, is the story of duty and desire, and of the man who is torn by and trapped between them.
Haunted by memories and visions of both his professional past and a love gone awry, war reporter Martin Crowther arrives in the small village Fontalba, in Italy's Umbrian Hills. He is there to search for the adult children of his mentor, Hal Brigshaw. Living in England, Brigshaw is nearing the end of a turbulent life and wants to summon his children home. The children, Marina and Adam, are living in familial exile and estrangement, hidden from their pasts in what was originally meant to be an Italian vacation home. But the pasts from which Marina and Adam have run are more present than anyone knows.
The Water Theatre interweaves the past and the present, travelling from the raw Pennine moors to equatorial Africa and the hill country of Umbria. An extraordinary reading experience that--in its depiction of an innocent drawn into a fascinating circle, its decades-long will-they-won't-they-end-up-together romance, its exploration of weighty issues of loyalty and loss, betrayal and reconciliation and the nature of choice—evokes John Fowles's two most brilliant novels, The Magus and Daniel Martin.
"Until I read Lindsay Clarke’s The Water Theatre, I never imagined…so enjoying, a book in which a set of characters that may remind us of an Evelyn Waugh novel subsequently reveal themselves to be more like characters from Graham Greene. Or that the novel in which they appear would turn out to be something much closer to Somerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge, but with the search for enlightenment and redemption moved closer to home, from the Far East to the northern Italian countryside." — Francine Prose
"Clarke’s astounding novel, set in England, Africa, and Italy, defies categories. Part political screed, part epic love story with some mystical fantasy added to the soup, his writing style is as crisp and straightforward as his subject matter is complicated and nuanced. This Whitbread Prize–winning author should find an appreciative new audience with this digital incarnation." —Library Journal, starred review
"Lindsay Clarke's The Water Theatre—a novel you probably haven't read, making it a regret you didn't know you had." —Manhattan User's Guide
"Mr. Clarke does a terrific job of keeping you engaged through the complex plot by withholding key details…[he] writes with subtlety and seriousness, and the narrative has a dreamlike, almost supernatural atmosphere. The Water Theatre deserves a bigger audience; perhaps now it will find one." —Barton Swaim, The Wall Street Journal
"It is a rare pleasure and surprise to read a new book whose prose is so rich and emotionally resonant... Lindsay Clarke has an enviable command of character, time, and place. He is almost Lawrentian in his ability to depict both the power and beauty of landscape, and tender or tragically fraught emotional relationships... This is a significant and ambitious work by a master of his craft." - The Independent
"Speaking of writers fulfilling their early promise, Lindsay Clarke’s complex, involving novel The Water Theatre is every bit as good as his stunning debut, The Chymical Wedding... This is a richly involving and rewarding work." - Erica Wagner, best books of the year, The Times (UK)
"Bold, tenacious characters and vivid, distinct landscapes give The Water Theatre a strong hold on the imagination as Clarke skilfully draws out the betrayals searing his characters’ lives." – The Financial Times
“A stunning, compelling tale that tackles the biggest theme of all; the existence of evil, and how ordinary, fallible mortals come to terms with Man’s astonishing capacity for brutality and venality…The Water Theatre should re-establish him as one of our most talented, ambitious and groundbreaking novelists. There is nothing small about this book; it is huge in scope, in energy, in heart. The characters, who are at all times utterly believable, wrestle with big questions, and never lapse into trite, pat answers… The compelling story and big themes are matched by exquisite, lyrical prose. Clarke is particularly good at conjuring a sense of place…The Water Theatre will linger long beyond the turning of the last page. It is difficult to remember a recent book that is at once so beautiful and yet so thought-provoking. Small wonder that it took some 15 years to write.” - The Times (UK)
“Full of mysticism, sex, spiritual quests and vagrant petals tossed wantonly upon the stream of life...deserves the widest possible audience.” - D.J. Taylor, The Spectator
“Brideshead Revisited continues to cast a long shadow in English fiction. An outsider becomes involved with a privileged family at their handsome family home, forming complicated emotional bonds with its members, moving through fascination and love, betrayal and hatred to redemption. This template worked for Alan Hollinghurst in 1980s Notting Hill in The Line of Beauty, and does so in Lindsay Clarke’s impressive novel set in 1950s Yorkshire and 1990s Umbria…Clarke has a gift for believably melding the visible world and human life with larger spiritual and metaphysical forces.” - The Financial Times