After reading Heather Rose’s magnificent, Bruny, I was very keen to discover more of her work, feeling terrible that I hadn’t years ago. And so I came to read the sublime The River Wife.
A short novel, this is more like a fable, a beautifully rendered, languid, heart-aching story of love, nature, trust, belonging and longing. It tells the story of a woman who is also part fish, what we would call a mermaid, who falls in love with a human man. Responsible for the river, for the ebb and flow of the waters, the creatures that dwell within and in complete accord with nature, the river wife is a mysterious eternal and maternal figure. Already the product herself of a love affair between species, she doesn’t question her feelings for the man who, unlike others, enters her realm, but cautiously allows them to envelop her.
But the love between a mortal and a mystical being is something that cannot really exist, since both are beholden to different temporal and corporeal expectations. And so, in the seeds of love are sewn the means of its inevitable demise.
This is just an exquisite tale. I became caught up in the magic of the narrative, of the way Rose uses language, like poetry, to sweep you gently into the world and time she creates and take you with her on this remarkable, beautiful journey.
I loved it and felt crushed when it finished. I will read it again soon.