Open Water

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The rise and fall of love between two young Black artists in London is at the center of this tender, poetic, gorgeous novel.

Written in second person, we follow a young, unnamed Black photographer as he meets and falls in love with a dancer, and his friend’s ex. At first, the two embark on a photography project together, finding reasons to be in the same space, before they finally admit to having feelings for each other and begin a relationship. It’s so beautiful to watch their relationship grow and we’re treated to really lovely moments of intimacy and awkwardness that come along the road from friends to lovers.

The beauty of this budding relationship is heartwrenchingly juxtaposed against the feelings of anger, isolation, fear, and sadness that come with experiencing racism. The main character lives in fear, processing memories of past encounters with the police while witnessing others. It’s painful to be inside his mind as he witnesses these moments and experiences a range of emotions. The poetic prose and second person narration have a really profound impact in these moments. In addition to experiencing these moments beside the main character, we also get to witness the slow unraveling of his relationship with the dancer as he struggles to voice his fears and pain to her. She desperately wants honesty from him, but he struggles to be open about the feelings and fears he is experiencing. It’s incredibly touching and an experience that is both unique to these characters while also being universal in feeling.

As well as being a love story between the two main characters, this is also a love story to Black artists and culture. There are so many references to Black authors, musicians, artists, and filmmakers sprinkled throughout the text and the two characters find a lot of joy and connection from sharing and experiencing art together. It’s beautifully rendered and had me googling any of the references I did not know.

This is a quick read with a lot of heart. It’s stunningly written, searing, and multilayered. I highly recommend reading this one.

CW: gun violence, police violence, racism

Published by Kristi

Hi there! I am Kristi, a book obsessed human with strong opinions. Join me as I read across genres and do the work to find you the best of the best books.

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