'As though a word could change the truth.'
"Armed with a suitcase and an old laundry bag filled with clothes, Kasienka and her mother head for England. Life is lonely for Kasienka. At homer her mother's heart is breaking and at school friends are scarce. But when someone special swims into her life, Kasienka learns that there might be more than one way for her to stay afloat."
First Line: "The wheels on the suitcase break
Before we've even left Gdansk Glowny."
This is a wonderful book that I read in one sitting. It deals beautifully with both big, difficult ideas such as immigation and identity but also celebrates the small wonders of growing up. Despite the novel being written in verse, and therefore being sparse on long descriptions and dialogue, Crossan gives us a cast of characters that are real and sympathetic especially in our lovely heroine, Kasienka. It also has a beautiful cover designed by Oliver Jeffers.
Why I read it: It was on the Carnegie longlist, and has since been announced as making the shortlist (which I predicted, and hoped, that it would).
Who I would recommend it to: If you enjoyed The Unforgotten Coat by Frank Cottrell Boyce or The Midnight Zoo by Sonya Hartnett.
The Weight of Water tells the story of Kasienka and her mother moving from Poland to England in search of their father, who left them two years ago. Kasienka's mother becomes obsessed with the task of tracking him down and fails to notice how lonely her daughter is. Kasineka has to deal with school in England - despite her intelligence she is put a year below due to her difficulties with English and has to deal with the cruelties of children who do not understand or tolerate difference. Along the way she also meets a boy, and we get a unique love story which captures the awkwardness and yet excitement of first love.
Most of the review I have read have started with commenting that they weren't expecting to like this because it was written in verse. I think it's a real shame that that would put people off - I was excited to read this and I'm actually currently reading another novel in verse - The Marlowe Papers by Ros Barber. The format works wonderfully as it manages to emphasise the sparseness and isolation of Kasienka's new life but also to soar lyrically when it needs to. The verse reads like a stream of consciousness, it is not flowery or difficult to understand.There are moments that are so raw and heartbreaking such as this,
'Mama is still crying.
But Babcia isn't here to hold here.
And my arms are too short for the job.'
I loved Kasienka - she is thoughtful and intelligent and tries so hard to not let things get her down. She is so full of courage open to positivity and it broke my heart when people's intolerance and selfishness stopped that. Her relationship with her mother is so realistic and sad - they fight but they love eachother so deeply and want to protect each other from hurt even though their ways of going about it clash. I also really loved their Kenyan neighbour, Kanoro who is so kind and represents the best of people just as the bullies as Kasienka's school represent the worst. I also thought William was very carefully created - he is not a flawless romantic hero and does not always stick up for Kasienka when you want him too but he sees her differences as beautiful and encourages her to stay true to herself.
This is a beautiful, poignant story. I am so happy to see it on the Carnegie shortlist so more people will find out about it.