Honed during the very first of our creative writing courses back in Spring 2011, Catherine Chanter’s debut novel The Well went on to win the 2013 Lucy Cavendish Prize for Unpublished Fiction and was longlisted for the CWA John Creasy (New Blood) Dagger 2015. The hardback edition came out in March this year and picked up many glowing reviews – including one from fellow CBC graduate Jessie Burton, author of The Miniaturist – while the paperback, which was launched at the beginning of September, has been selected as a Richard and Judy Bookclub choice for Autumn 2015. TV rights for The Well are under option with a major US studio.
Life in London did not go as well for Ruth and her husband Mark as they had hoped. Their daughter Angie remained difficult and itinerant, seldom bringing her son Lucien to see his loving grandparents. Mark was struggling under the weight of unproven allegations and England was entering a long period of drought. It seemed like the perfect time to move to the country and try out Mark’s rural dream.
Now under house-arrest and half-mad, Ruth looks back over two years and tries to understand how everything could have gone so wrong after they moved to the Well. Her husband and daughter have left her, the farm is overrun with soldiers and government scientists, while Lucien is dead. She still cannot be sure who killed him and many believe it was her.
Ruth has to piece together the strangest years of her life into a story she can understand and live with. How did she go from being at the centre of a cult celebrating the supernatural lushness of her land to being an object of official scrutiny?
The Well is a brilliant crossover between dystopian thriller and family drama. Every time something seems certain, it’s soon cast into doubt. Catherine Chanter’s characters and their relationships are intricately complex – we are invited to question Ruth the way she questions others – and each tight plot-strand blooms like the Rose of Jericho around which Ruth’s cult is formed. Nature is portrayed in both its restorative and its more dangerous aspects, with changes of season at the Well lovingly detailed. Ruth’s world is not so far from our own, but this dark fable about love and faith makes you look differently at what you think you know. The Independent called it ‘a strong, literary page-turner’.
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