Early 5bat! Review: The Drowning Girl by Caitlin R. Kiernan

March 5, 2012 Review 4


*This title will be released on March 6, 2012*

The Drowning Girl

Title: The Drowning Girl
AuthorCaitlin R. Kiernan
Series: N/A
Cover Art: N/A
Genre: dark fantasy
Excerpt: No
Source: Publisher
Reviewed by: Julia

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Roc Trade; March 6, 2012
  • ISBN-10: 0451464168
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451464163

buy the book from The Book Depository, free delivery 

Sexual Content:
References to sex, descriptions of oral sex and sex toys.


Near Perfect – Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend.


India Morgan Phelps-Imp to her friends-is schizophrenic. She can no longer trust her own mind, because she is convinced that her memories have somehow betrayed her, forcing her to question her very identity.

Struggling with her perceptions of reality, Imp must uncover the truth about her encounters with a vicious siren, or a helpless wolf that cam to her as a feral girl, or neither of these things but something far, far stranger…


By the purest definition of the rating, THE DROWNING GIRL is indisputably 5bats.  A few chapters in, I was already reading passages aloud to friends.  I already knew who would be receiving my own copy, budgeting for who I could send others.  This had less to do with any enjoyment of the book than a sense of haunting that perfectly mirrors the main character’s own experiences.  Does anyone else see what I see?  Am I crazy, am I alone? 

THE DROWNING GIRL introduces concepts and stories and images that are impossible to shake, and the thought of being able to discuss them with others is comforting.  Even more so, the line between fantasy and reality is blurred more in this book than any other I’ve read.  Which of the “facts” relayed by Imp are from our world, which from hers?  While the fantasy elements of this story are arguably the product of Imp’s illness, the way she expresses her story is so beautifully crafted as to make me doubt even that.  This charismatic but unreliable narrator, like any true artist, is able to convey the feeling of her own insanity without ever giving me the sense that I had unraveled it’s mystery.  As I read, trying to match dates and references to reality, I realized I was falling into Imp’s own habits, desperately trying to impose order on fragmented and flawed mind.  Like Russian dolls, stories and paintings and quotes nest themselves into the narrative in a way that is as enthralling as it is inscrutable. 

Kiernan creates a new definition for “haunting”, while at the same time infecting me with the same.  With so much discussion of different types of art (short stories, paintings, sculpture, content…), THE DROWNING GIRL delivers it’s own message with a slight of the hand that is devastating.  What part of this book implanted this haunted feeling?  What page, what paragraph, has left me so shaken?  Equal parts INFINITE JEST and ghost story, though THE DROWNING GIRL was not a restful read, nor the type of entertainment I normally look for in fantasy, it is most certainly unforgettable.

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4 Responses to “Early 5bat! Review: The Drowning Girl by Caitlin R. Kiernan”

  1. Paige Cuccaro

    Wow…this soooo makes me want to read this book. Awesome review! Putting it on my wishlist. The cover alone is creepy-good.

  2. Julia

    Thanks for the comment, Paige, "creepy-good" is dead on. I had such a hard time explaining why I found this book so compelling, especially when terms like "enjoy" or "love" really don't apply. Can't get it out of my head!

  3. Kt Clapsadl

    I received this book for review as well. However I tried on three different occasions to read it. I even got as far as 100 pages in, and I just couldn't seem to get into it. Things were too all over the place for me. I'm glad you liked it though.

  4. Julia

    KT, I fought through the same stretch you did, put down the book, read an entire other book for review, and then came back and forced myself through the rest. "Forced" because reading THE DROWNING GIRL never really go easy… Imp's habit of switching tenses and points of view, etc. were always tricky. That is part of the mechanism that pulled me into the story, though, which ultimately made it worth the effort. I really did start mentally tracing the same ground as Imp, trying to figure out what was real. Maybe THE DROWNING GIRL would make a good plane book, sometimes I have to be locked in seat for a few hours to get me over the hump with a certain book (*cough*Tom Bombadil*cough*).