Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The Weight of Water - M's review

The Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan

The Weight of Water has been nominated for the 2013 Carnegie medal. It is a quick and enchanting read, and I really can’t recommend it highly enough. I read it a few weeks back, made some notes and now....I actually can't fault it. Amazing.

The Weight of Water tells a contemporary tale about twelve year old Kasienka. She travels with her mother from Poland to England. They are in search of her father and have little money. The unwinding story is a familiar bildungsroman of a twelve year old immigrant who is the new girl in school trying to understand and form her own identity. Within this story, the main plot with its heavy themes of bullying, loss and immigration are lightly buoyed  by the sweet-and-scary joys of pursuing  interests, love and the prospects of newfound  happiness.

What makes this story truly beautiful though, is the way it is told. The Weight of Water consists of a set of poems. Its form takes a poetic shape but uses narrative prose to great effect. At first, I was alarmed when I saw the unfamiliar shape of poetry lines in the pages of this novel rather than the familiar chunks of paragraphs. But, the writing has a beguiling rhythm which adds a simple but beautiful flow to what is an easy story to follow. It is an engrossing story that you’ll read easily in a single sitting. Or in little bits if that’s what you prefer.

The Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan
Here are some of my further thoughts about the book in relation to the Carnegie shadowing criteria that we're using:

My first impression of Kasienka was that she was a good girl who felt loved and loved her family – although she felt terrible that her dad had left them. She seemed like a pleasant child who tried hard and was content. The descriptions of Kasienka’s thoughts, looks, behaviour are all very plausible and aspects of them are likely to be familiar to most people, especially twelve year old but nearly thirteen year olds girls.
Many of the main characters change as the novel progresses. While the plot is important and strong, the main focus is on how the main characters in this novel, Kasienka and her mother, adapt to their changing environment and relationships in England.

Kasienka has important relationships with a number of adults and students at school. Some of these relationships are positive and supportive, others are more negative. Many of these relationships change.

Despite the poetry, the language (vocabulary and syntax) is straightforward. The story dives straight in with Kasienka and her mother leaving Poland with just an old suitcase and a laundry bag. From the first page, you know already that this change in their life is not going to be easy.

The Weight of Water is told from Kasienka’s point of view. There is very little dialogue with other characters but there is a lot of internal dialogue. There is also a lot of description which helps to fill in the details of the story and to create an atmosphere of passing time and change. However, Crossan does not linger on irrelevant detail and the story moves swiftly, flitting past that which is not integral to the main developments of the character and plot.

The main plot about Kasienka and her mother's move to England in search of her father is well-supported and enhanced by the interweaved sub-plots. For me, it is the sub-plot around developing personal identity which are the highlight of this story.
This book definitely stays with you after you have finished it. You know where you finish the last page and just sit staring......and wondering what happens next in the characters' lives? And then wish you could quickly find someone else who has read it so you can talk about it with them? Yes, it was like that for me.

This book would probably fit into a contemporary genre because it is set in current times and is realistic (but you might also find it on the poetry shelves).

I would recommend this novel to readers approximately 11+ and think that it could have a broad appeal to a variety of readers.
Publication details:
Bloomsbury, January 2012, London, hardback
This copy: received for Carnegie reviewing from the publisher



  1. I've been debating whether to read this book for a while now after enjoying Breathe and I think I'll give it a go now after reading this review! Thank you!

    New follower via GFC :)

    1. Hi Lucy, that's great. The Weight of Water is different to Breathe in so many ways. I hope you enjoy it. Thanks for following.


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