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The Water Theatre

The Water Theatre

by Lindsay Clarke

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Beautifully descriptive and thrillingly captivating, this novel, by Whitbread Prize-winning novelist 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 of 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, traveling 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.Lindsay Clarke

Additional Book Information

Series: NYRB Lit
ISBN: 9781590176504
Pages: 450
Publication Date:


Until I read Lindsay Clarke's The Water Theatre, I never 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

With his intense, poetic prose, his ability to dovetail the imaginative with the down-to-earth, and his sparkling observation of the natural world, Lindsay Clarke is an exceptional writer.
New Statesman

The compelling story and big themes are matched by exquisite, lyrical prose.... 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, London

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

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

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

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