Our Wives Under The Sea

By Julia Armfield

Morning! Today, I am talking about Our Wives Under The Sea by Julia Armfield.

The Winner of the Polari Book Prize 2023 releases her debut novel, published by Picador. 


Miri thinks she has got her wife back, when Leah finally returns after a deep-sea mission that ended in catastrophe. It soon becomes clear, though, that Leah is not the same. Whatever happened in that vessel, whatever it was they were supposed to be studying before they were stranded on the ocean floor, Leah has brought part of it back with her, onto dry land and into their home.

Moving through something that only resembles normal life, Miri comes to realize that the life that they had before might be gone. Though Leah is still there, Miri can feel the woman she loves slipping from her grasp.

Our Wives Under The Sea is the debut novel from Julia Armfield, the critically acclaimed author of Salt Slow. It’s a story of falling in love, loss, grief, and what life there is in the deep deep sea.

Quatermass meets Truly, Madly Deeply by way of The Abyss in Julia Armfield’s haunting debut.

After being missing for six months when a routine research expedition goes wrong, Leah returns home to her wife, Miri.

However, Miri has noticed that even though her wife is home, something is not quite right. Leah is a different person from the one that went on the submarine. She spends most of her time in the bathroom and she doesn’t interact with her wife.

Our Wives Under The Sea is a literary horror novel that is a beautifully poignant examination of love and loss, and what happens after.

The story is told from two perspectives, the first comes from Miri, who details the events of the story after Leah returns, whilst Leah’s perspective intersects the present with the events on the submarine after it ‘sinks’ and the effects of the isolation that the crew experience, such as hallucinations and strange ghostly occurrences, whilst stranded at the bottom of the sea.

Armfield’s writing is elegantly prosaic as Miri details how Leah and Miri met and their life together, how they built their relationship and the grief and loss of Miri’s death by Alzheimer’s and how this affects Miri. 

Whilst, Armfield beautifully brings Miri and Leah’s relationship to life, she steadily piles the claustrophobia and cloying feeling of grief as the situation with Leah which ultimately takes a tragic turn. She masterfully outlines the frustration felt by loved ones as they deal with the bureaucracy associated with the loss of a loved one and how it impacts on the bereaved.

At times, I did feel that certain themes and motifs were a little overused to the point of repetition. However, on the whole the book is beautifully written examination of the loss of a loved one. 

If you have two minutes!

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