The Sweetness of Water (Paperback)Nathan Harris (author)
Two newly freed brothers form a tentative friendship with a grieving landowner in Harris’s dynamic and compassionate US Civil War-era debut about the physical and emotional costs of freedom.
Shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize 2022.
Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2021.
What price do we pay for freedom?
In the dying days of the American Civil War, newly freed brothers Landry and Prentiss find themselves cast into the world without a penny to their names. Forced to hide out in the woods near their former Georgia plantation, they're soon discovered by the land's owner, George Walker, a man still reeling from the loss of his son in the war.
When the brothers begin to live and work on George's farm, the tentative bonds of trust and union begin to blossom between the strangers. But this sanctuary survives on a knife's edge, and it isn't long before the inhabitants of the nearby town of Old Ox react with fury at the alliances being formed only a few miles away.
Conjuring a world fraught by tragedy and violence yet threaded through with hope, The Sweetness of Water is a debut novel unique in its power to move and enthral.
Publisher: Headline Publishing Group
Number of pages: 416
Weight: 280 g
Dimensions: 196 x 126 x 32 mm
'The Sweetness of Water is a fine, lyrical novel, impressive at the level of the sentence, and in its complex interweaving of the grand and the intimate, of the personal and political. In presenting two narratives largely overlooked in traditional renderings of the war, Harris breathes new life into a period of history whose stories have grown stale with overtelling.' - The Observer
'An insightful first novel... [a] highly accomplished debut.' - Sunday Times
'As 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.' - Oprah in Associated Press
'That 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 hope.' - Washington Post
'What 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 racism.' - Richard Russo
'Harris' 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 devastation.' - Booklist, starred review
'As beautiful as it is violent, this moving novel explores how love can bloom even in the most harrowing of circumstances.' - Buzzfeed
'To 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.' - Luis Alberto Urrea
'[An] ambitious debut . . . Harris writes in intelligent, down-to-earth prose and shows a keen understanding of his characters . . . Credible and deeply moving.' - Publishers Weekly, starred review
'An impressive debut by a storyteller with bountiful insight and assurance.' - Kirkus
'[The book's] grave beauty is evident immediately.' - Library Journal
'This stunning debut novel probes the limits of freedom in a society where ingrained prejudice and inequality remain the law of the land.' - Oprah Daily
'Among July's most impressive debut novels.' - The i
'Harris's tender debut novel captures the yearning for human connection and the risks of departing from social norms.' - New York TimesA work of great depth and beauty.' - Culturefly
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“Freedom, friendship and the future in post-Emancipation America”
The Sweetness of Water is an interesting take on the usual slavery era American novel. By focussing on the post emancipation South as freed slaves try and find their way to independence, Harris provides a moving... More
In the waning days of the Civil War, brothers Prentiss and Landry—freed by the Emancipation Proclamation—seek refuge on the homestead of George Walker and his wife, Isabelle. The Walkers, wracked by the loss of their... More
“A Contemporary Classic”
Wow I just loved this book. Initially it took a time to get going but this was right, the scene needed to bet set and life isn't drama all the time. The second part of the book was so moving. The story is set... More
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