Our Wives Under The Sea by Julia Armfield

Our Wives Under The Sea is a disquieting novel about a woman dealing with her wife returning after a deep sea mission gone wrong and realising that things cannot go back to how they were. Miri’s wife Leah went down on a submarine for a research project and didn’t come back for six months, far longer than she was meant to be gone, and now she’s back, she’s not the same, distant and unsettling. Not knowing what happened or what will happen to Leah, Miri has to try and navigate an unknown reality whilst grieving for their past life together.

The atmosphere of this book is amazing, a deeply eerie world both above and below sea level, and it really gets across the isolation not only of Leah when under the sea, but Miri now that Leah is back. In a sense, it is about unknowable horror, but in another sense, it is about what happens when the person you love changes and you have to stand by and watch. The book moves between longer chapters from Miri’s present perspective and shorter chapters that are Leah documenting what happened underwater, and these work well together, leaving you unsettled by both parts of the narrative and unfolding as much about Miri and Leah’s past together as Leah’s being trapped underwater in a way that cleverly combines horror and love story, both understated.

This novel felt like a really good concept for a story expanded into something rich and lyrical that meditates on loneliness, love, and what might be lurking under the sea. It isn’t about answers, but about unknowable depths and what happens when things don’t seem to be making sense but you just have to keep going anyway.