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The Drowning Girl

3.78 of 5 stars 3.78  ·  rating details  ·  1,498 ratings  ·  333 reviews
India Morgan Phelps — Imp to her friends — is schizophrenic. Struggling with her perceptions of reality, Imp must uncover the truth about her encounters with creatures out of myth — or from something far, far stranger...
Paperback, 336 pages
Published March 6th 2012 by Roc Trade
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Cold Days by Jim ButcherKing of Thorns by Mark  LawrenceA Perfect Blood by Kim HarrisonFair Game by Patricia BriggsTricked by Kevin Hearne
Science Fiction & Fantasy Titles for 2012!
85th out of 650 books — 1,470 voters
The Drowning Girl by Caitlín R. KiernanThe Red Tree by Caitlín R. KiernanHades' Disciples by Michael  WestZeus' Warriors by Michael  WestSkull Full of Kisses by Michael  West
Lesbian Horror
1st out of 14 books — 15 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Rabindranauth
Ghosts are those memories that haunt us. But what happens when you cannot trust your memories? And what if the truth is worse than even your sick mind can come up with?

India Morgan Phelps, Imp to her friends, is schizophrenic. A hereditary condition, Imp has to be careful she doesn’t go the way of her mother and grandmother before her, who both committed suicide. But the mind can play bizarre tricks on you, even when you’re not suffering from a condition that creates false memories like Imp is....more
Jason
5 Stars

Caitlin Kiernan is simply one of the best, the most original, and gifted writers in fiction today. She writes deep and dark horror stories and challenges you the reader as well as her many amazing protagonists to join her on a trip down the rabbit hole. Can you tell she is a real favorite of mine? I have read most of Kiernan’s work and have been taken in by her works, ever since I read The Red Tree, my first endeavor into the mysterious mind of Caitlin Kiernan.

In this book, The Drowning G...more
Algernon

There's always a siren, singing you to shipwreck. Some of us may be more susceptible than others are, but there's always a siren. It may be with us all our lives, or it may be many years or decades before we find it or it finds us. But when it does find us, if we're lucky we're Odysseus tied up to the ship's mast, hearing the song with perfect clarity, but ferried to safety by a crew whose ears have been plugged with beeswax. If we're not at all lucky, we're another sort of sailor stepping off...more
Patrick
(I tried making this review friends-only but I guess there's not a way to do that. Strangers, please do not judge what a jerk I am. Goodreads friends, judge away but keep it to yourself.)

When I first saw Caitlin Kiernan, I thought she was obnoxious. It was my first time at the Readercom science fiction convention in Burlington, MA, and I had gone to a panel discussion called "Wet Dreams and Nightscapes" or something like that to hear Samuel Delany talk. Samuel Delany's a weirdo but he usually ha...more
Ryandake
it's been a while since i've been this flummoxed by a book.

it's a ghost story, a mermaid story, a siren story, a wolf story, a crazy person story... all wrapped up in one. maybe that's why it's so hard to grasp--where it's not mythological, it's psychological, or maybe mythopoetic.

all of the above, i can handle. even in one book. it's a stretch, no doubt--this is not a fishhook book, where you get nabbed by the hook and pulled along. you have to do some serious swimming against the current here...more
Barks & Bites
If you pick this up thinking it’s a charming fantasy or even a gothic horror novel you may be disappointed. Like Kiernan’s The Red Tree (which I loved), it has eerie leanings but at its core it’s more an intimate and unflinching look at a person’s struggle with insanity. It revisits several of the same themes but it takes them further and, as much as I tried and wanted to love this one just as much, in the end it just didn’t work for me.

Told in first person, India (Imp) is the unreliable narrato...more
Terence
Mar 17, 2013 Terence rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Terence by: Caitlin Kiernan fan
Shelves: horror-gothic
The Drowning Girl is a difficult book to characterize. Baldly, it’s the story of India Morgan Phelps (aka “Imp”), a highly functional schizophrenic whose life is turned upside down by the appearance of Eva Canning, who may or may not be a ghost, a werewolf, a mermaid or a stalker. If you don’t like unreliable narrators, ambiguous (and sometimes downright confusing) plots and – in the end – not really knowing “what happened,” then you will loathe this book. If you can wrap your mind around the id...more
Lee
Story: 3.5/5
1: Being Vague, rambling plot with no little believable storyline
5: Ripping yarn, clever, thought provoking


The drowning girl is like nothing I have ever read before. Written in a style that was very different to my usual choice of books. In a nutshell the story is about a young woman called Imp, who has some mental issues that seem to be genetic from her mothers side. There was a period of her life where things got kind of scary. To help with her rehabilitation she decides to write...more
All Things Urban Fantasy
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 a...more
Tiffany
I'm not entirely sure what to say about this book. I appreciated it, but I didn't enjoy it. I fully expected to be blown away by this novel since it has so many of my favorite themes: mental illness, ghosts, and fairy tale creatures. However, while the prose was lovely and the book was well-written overall, I felt entirely detached and never engaged with the plot or the characters. In fact, Imp was really irritating to me and her deliberate unreliability as a narrator alienated me rather than in...more
Kaora
Another award winning book that I feel that I may have missed the point of or am not smart enough to understand. I feel like I need someone there to point out things that I may have missed to fully appreciate what I just read.

I have Risperdal, Depakene, and Valium, and so far I've stayed out of Butler Hospital, and I've only tried to kill myself. And only once. Or twice. Maybe I have the drugs to thank for this, or maybe I have my painting to thank, or maybe it's my paintings and the fact that m...more
Ctgt
For me, this book was all about expectations.

About a year ago, I read and loved The Red Tree. Being a fan of weird fiction TRT was really in my wheelhouse. I added "Drowning Girl" to my tbr but as usual took quite awhile to actually read it. In the interim I started to notice many mixed reviews especially when compared to TRT. I try not to read too many specific reviews before I read a book hoping to go in with an open mind but in this case I think finding out that this book wasn't at all like T...more
Randolph Carter
What if you were insane, but actually haunted by a real ghost? I'm not sure why nobody has ever really tried this before (Yellow Wallpaper doesn't count because it always calls the narrator's perceptions and mental stability into question).

Drenched in philosophy, history, psychology, science, and autobiography Kiernan uses her encyclopedic knowledge to weave a tale so dense it is sometimes difficulty to see where she is going but fascinating nevertheless. Imp seems to be the ultimate unreliable...more
aPriL loves HalLowEen
Only 300+ pages, but the themes, image echoes, literary and metafictional references are too numerous to catalog. This is a writer's masterpiece for other writers and literature majors. I don't mean to scare or challenge you; be warned it's not a true genre or other entertainment category, but I'd call it as coming closest to a literary gothic. There are no 'dictionary' words or overly gruesome scenarios, but it does cover ghostly mysteries possibly manifesting because of past cult suicides.

Indi...more
Kate O'Hanlon
Kiernan's last novel The Red Tree impressed me mightily but ultimately did not win me over. I have been vindicated in my decision to give her another go. All the technical expertise, authenticity and stunning command over a deep and complex plot that was displayed in The Red Tree is out in force again but in The Drowning Girl Kiernan also brings something extra (a more likeable protagonist? a more compelling mythos? a more satisfying ending? all of this?) that made this novel one I could love as...more
Nikki
The germ of this review comes from a discussion thread about it. I don't think I've borrowed anyone else's insights, but I'll freely confess I was confused for much of this book and therefore very probably suggestible. I just finished it -- I stayed away from the thread entirely until I got chance to read The Drowning Girl, because I knew from reading The Red Tree that I'd find it frustrating, but ultimately rewarding, to go it alone. I had wikipedia and google open, fact-checking the allusions...more
Oscar
‘La Joven Ahogada’, de la irlandesa Caitlín R. Kiernan, es una novela que puede encuadrarse dentro del gótico contemporáneo, es decir, que no nos vamos a encontrar castillos en ruinas y espacios lúgubres y misteriosos. Puede que lo más llamativo sea la inteligente estructura narrativa, que incluye recortes de periódicos, extractos de poemas, fragmentos de llamadas telefónicas, y algún cuento dentro de la propia novela escrito por su protagonista. Todo, hay que reconocerlo, bastante caótico, que...more
Sub_zero
4.5/5

Esta es una historia de fantasmas. Pero no es de fantasmas. Es una historia de sirenas y de hombres lobo y de jóvenes encontradas en la orilla de un río. De demonios personales. De amor, arte, locura y oscuridad. Un cuento fúnebre, una biografía alucinógena, un desbordante ejercicio de creatividad narrativa ejecutado con maestría. La joven ahogada es muchas cosas y en general, muy buenas, pero por encima de todo, la deslumbrante novela de Caitlín R. Kiernan es un estremecedor relato acerca...more
Georgina Bruce
It seems harsh to give only 2 stars to a novel that is technically quite accomplished and which is not full of bad writing. But something about CRK's work just leaves me cold. It's a shame, because in theory, the subject matter of this book is right up my street - an unreliable narrator, ghost story, haunted painters, fairy stories, etc. But this didn't develop into... well, anything much.

The characters are unlikeable, pretentious and humourless. They are all so miserable you wonder how they ma...more
Andy
My brain hurts...but in a good way. The Drowning Girl is one of the most complex and most difficult to explain books, I've ever read (also in a good way), and I apologize in advance that I am going to blunder through this review. Think of it as akin to someone with an average palate not being able to fully appreciate the depth of flavor in a gourmet meal. I know this book was delicious, but won't do it justice with my desciption.

Basically, The drowning Girl is about a schizophrenic girl, Imp (In...more
John McNee
I moved into a new place at the end of last year. The bare walls are dotted throughout with picture hooks, so I’ve been keeping an eye out for things to hang on them. However, thus far I’ve only bought one piece of art - a framed print of a painting by Olga Noes titled 'Gently Lain Down'.

It’s a picture of a drowning girl. Or a mermaid. Or siren. All of the above or neither. She has long blonde hair and calm, pale eyes, staring out from the bottom of a pond, the water of which is so still it’s in...more
Wendy Browne
This is actually the book that made me decide to write this post and create a DNF shelf on Goodreads. A recent Nebula Awards nominee, it won the vote as this month's read for my bookclub. While I like the concept of a haunted schizophrenic girl and the way art and fairy tales play so heavily in her memoiors of her own madness, I just could not take the writing. I didn't even mind the moments where Imp seems to stop and instruct herself. I just didn't enjoy the meandering, long paragraphs of her...more
Sarah
I'm still struggling with a review of this book. Imp is a fabulous, fascinating narrator. She explains in the opening chapter that she has schizophrenia. This makes the entire story suspect. What is truth? What is fact? Is it possible for something to be true without being factual? Two of Imp's own short stories become chapters of the book, but they are part of her own processing of reality. Her ghost story is peppered with references to paintings and painters and writers who may or may not exis...more
11811 (Eleven)
The quirkiness of this story grabbed my interest right from the start. About 20% into the book it started to get on my nerves. After about 50% or so, I started to hate it. There may be a bit of genius in here somewhere that I lack the intelligence or creativity to appreciate but in any case I was disappointed.

If this is worthy of any award this year, the Bram Stoker is the wrong venue. It has some dark elements but doesn't quite fit the horror genre.
Gail
The fact that this all made sense to me, does that make me insane? I loved Imp. Such a beautiful character. Being inside her head was an amazing experience. Although the night I finished reading the book, I had nightmares, reliving monsters of my child hood. Was that related? Who knows.
Sofia Samatar
This is a ghost story, and a mermaid story, and a werewolf story, and a schizophrenia story, and a love story. It's also a story about the power of art. The narrator, India Morgan Phelps, who goes by "Imp," is haunted by a strange woman (or possibly two women) named Eva Canning; she's also haunted by several works of art. She's haunted by a painting called The Drowning Girl, which shows a naked girl wading into the water, and by a painting called Fecunda ratis, which shows a crouching girl in re...more
Amy  Eller Lewis
This was, very possible, the most intense reading experience of the last decade. The last time I remember such an intense read was Haven Kimmel's "Iodine", and this outraces that by several yards.

I'm not going to bother talking about the premise (brilliant) or the structure (beyond innovative) because you can read about these things in the Amazon description.

I will, however talk about how none of these blurbs are accurate in preparing any reader for this book. And I don't mean that in the way y...more
Mogsy (MMOGC)
http://bibliosanctum.blogspot.com/201...

This novel was our book club's choice for July, the theme of which was "Nominees for the 2012 Nebula Awards". Though this book hadn't been on my to-read list, nor had I a clue what it was going to be about, I'd looked forward to checking it out.

The Drowning Girl, described as dark fantasy and horror mixed with strong elements of magical realism, stars protagonist India Morgan Phelps, or Imp to those around her. Imp also has schizophrenia. As such, much of...more
David Sven
I really wanted to like this book more than I did. Probably because I enjoyed discussing aspects of the book in a group setting more than I enjoyed the actual book.

So what sort of book is it?
Well it might be a ghost story. It may have some horror elements. It might be factual - or it might just be true... or both or neither. Do I sound like a crazy person? That's because this book is told in the first person by someone who considers themselves insane - though her psychiatrist doesn't like using...more
Ellen
The Drowning Girl (A Memoir) by Caítlin R. Kiernan (Roc) is a complex story about ghosts, mermaids, sirens, insanity, cults, truth vs. fact, metamorphosis, and relationships. India Morgan Phelps (aka Imp) struggles for several years against her own inner demons to work out what really happened the night she stopped her car to pick up a naked woman walking along a deserted road. As Imp writes in her diary, her memories drift back and forth in time, introducing dreamy strands of possibilities. Kie...more
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Mental Illness Ad...: New Schizophrenia book 1 5 Jun 06, 2014 08:42AM  
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Night of the Livi...: November 2013 Selection: The Drowning Girl 1 2 Jan 04, 2014 07:12AM  
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“Ghosts are those memories that are too strong to be forgotten for good, echoing across the years and refusing to be obliterated by time.” 24 likes
“Language is a poor enough means of communication as it is. So we should use all the words we have.” 17 likes
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