LONGLISTED FOR THE 2021 BOOKER PRIZE AND SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2022 DYLAN THOMAS PRIZE
A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER 2021, OPRAH BOOK CLUB PICK AND BARACK OBAMA 2021 SELECTION
'A fine, lyrical novel, impressive in its complex interweaving of the grand and the intimate, of the personal and political' Observer
Landry and Prentiss are two brothers born into slavery, finally freed as the American Civil War draws to its bitter close. Cast into the world without a penny to their names, their only hope is to find work in a society that still views them with nothing but intolerance.
Farmer George Walker and his wife Isabelle are reeling from a loss that has shaken them to their core. After a chance encounter, they agree to employ the brothers on their land, and slowly the tentative bonds of trust begin to blossom between the strangers.
But this sanctuary survives on a knife's edge, and it isn't long before a tragedy causes the inhabitants of the nearby town to turn their suspicion onto these new friendships, with devastating consequences.
An Oprah Book Club Pick
'[A] highly accomplished debut' Sunday Times
Readers have been swept away by The Sweetness of Water:
'Such a powerful, magnificent book; I urge you to read it. The comparisons with Colson Whitehead are justified' *****
'A staggering debut and a story that stays with you' *****
'Thought-provoking and moving . . . a gripping and compelling novel that exposes flaws, mixed emotions and imperfect relationships, and yet it holds on with determination and hope. It fully deserves a 5-star rating' *****
'Outstanding . . . A book that deserves widespread recognition and a wide audience' *****
In the right hands, historical fiction can often capture the truth of our own times more successfully than many contemporary attempts. . . Readers will often forget that this is a debut novel; one of Harris's greatest gifts, aside from those beautifully wrought sentences, is his empathy, his ability to slip inside the skins of these men and women . . . in his unsparing examination of both hatred and deep love, Harris will win over the hearts of many readersHarris is a writer of great lyricism and power . . . an arresting debutAs I read this masterful novel I kept thinking-this young 29-year-old is a first-time author, so how did he do this? As the best writers can do, Nathan takes us back in time, and helps us to feel we are right there with Prentiss and Landry as they get their first taste of freedom. I rooted for them, and feared for them too[An] ambitious debut novel . . . this is impressive stuffThat this powerful book is Nathan Harris's debut novel is remarkable; that he's only 29 is miraculous. His prose is burnished with an antique patina that evokes the mid-19th century. And he explores this liminal moment in history with extraordinary sensitivity to the range of responses from Black and White Americans contending with a revolutionary ideal of personhood. . . . Harris stacks the timbers of this plot deliberately, and the moment a spark alights, the whole structure begins to burn hot. If this is an era - and a genre - that has no room for encouragement, THE SWEETNESS OF WATER is finally willing to carve out a little oasis of hopeWhat a gifted, assured writer Nathan Harris is. He does what all novelists are supposed to do-give birth to vivid characters, people worth caring about, and then get out of their way. The result is better than any debut novel has a right to be. With The Sweetness of Water, Harris has, in a sense, unwritten Gone With the Wind, detonating its phony romanticism, its unearned sympathies, its wretched racismHarris' lucid prose and vivid characterization illustrate a community at war with itself, poisoned by pride and mired in racial and sexual bigotry. . . Harris' first novel is an aching chronicle of loss, cruelty, and love in the wake of community devastationAs beautiful as it is violent, this moving novel explores how love can bloom even in the most harrowing of circumstancesTo open Nathan Harris's first novel is to enter a trance. I can't think of any other book out there quite like it. The richness of his language and the exquisite details of the lives he creates produce a kind of waking dream, equally lyrical and threatening[An] ambitious debut . . . Harris writes in intelligent, down-to-earth prose and shows a keen understanding of his characters . . . Credible and deeply movingAn impressive debut by a storyteller with bountiful insight and assurance[The book's] grave beauty is evident immediatelyThis stunning debut novel probes the limits of freedom in a society where ingrained prejudice and inequality remain the law of the landHarris's tender debut novel captures the yearning for human connection and the risks of departing from social normsA work of great depth and beauty.An arresting debutAbsolutely stunning, full of vivid descriptions, gripping tension, dynamically complex characters, and a well-woven storyAn epic story of love and grief at an incendiary moment in American history
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