Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Drowning Girl” as Want to Read:
The Drowning Girl
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Drowning Girl

3.71  ·  Rating details ·  4,524 ratings  ·  698 reviews
India Morgan Phelps--Imp to her friends--is schizophrenic. She can no longer trust her own mind, because she is convinced that her memories have somehow betrayed her, forcing her to question her very identity.

Struggling with her perception of reality, Imp must uncover the truth about an encounter with a vicious siren, or a helpless wolf that came to her as a feral girl, or
Paperback, 332 pages
Published March 6th 2012 by Roc
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Drowning Girl, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Chadwick Obviously that is one that we would all like to know. I really think that like the empty ashtray that hasn't been emptied for weeks in "The Mermaid of…moreObviously that is one that we would all like to know. I really think that like the empty ashtray that hasn't been emptied for weeks in "The Mermaid of the Concrete Ocean" and the mention of looking for the grave of Abalyn Canning that these are intentional places that we are being kept out of. In fiction you can create mysteries that have no answer, and they lay there pooled in inscrutability , tantalizingly out of reach forever. Or, conversely, they could be continuity errors. I doubt this, though, as Kiernan's editing process as described on her LJ seems fairly rigourous, and I know that she had the usual service of beta readers and professional editing done.(less)
Sean Rodgers The author dislikes having her work called horror. But it is a ghost story. But then again, it really isn't. Maybe it's a compliment that it defies ea…moreThe author dislikes having her work called horror. But it is a ghost story. But then again, it really isn't. Maybe it's a compliment that it defies easy categorization? (less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.71  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,524 ratings  ·  698 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Drowning Girl
Jack Tripper
Nov 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The weird tale can be difficult to sustain through the course of an entire novel, which is why it's often most successful in short form. How does an author maintain that strangeness, that otherworldliness, throughout 200-300 pages? Well, Kiernan's figured it out, though I doubt anyone could ever copy her technique here without looking like a complete rip-off artist. She uses an entirely unreliable narrator, one who is schizophrenic and constantly lies, who's experiencing parallel timelines -- on ...more
Jan 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
This one is dark and haunting, half a tribute to falling into art so deeply that it makes love to you and murders you, and half a deep treatise on madness and skirting the far edges of normality, all while feeling very much in one's own skin.

Most of the fun is simply trying to figure out whether it's a ghost story, a Ghost Story, or the ghost of a story, disjointed and cast adrift in time and faulty memory.

It's quite the interesting maze. Parts of the later novel is dreamlike and calls on us to
Printable Tire
Nov 09, 2012 rated it liked it
(I finally edited this.)

I was interested enough with the hoopla surrounding Ms. Kiernan to give one of her novels a try. And I really picked the best one, not only because it is the most recent and celebrated but also because it takes place in Providence and Rhode Island whereabouts.

In fact, the whole first half of the book is saturated with gratuitous Providence shout-outs and references. I don't know what it must be like to read this book in another place, but it's hilarious to read what are e
11811 (Eleven)
Mar 05, 2013 rated it it was ok
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.
Mar 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: e-books, read-2012
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
Aug 12, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“We weave necessary fictions, and sometimes they save us. Our minds, our bodies.”
- Imp
“You know now that you’ll never be sure what happened?”
- Dr. Ogilvy

Wow. So there are unreliable narrators and then there are schizophrenics. Had I never read PKD I would have been unprepared.

There are chapters where it is a Tai Chi flow of pure crazy; tangent overlapping tangent. I had never really understood the phrase ‘Keep it together.’

Kiernan cleverly draws you into the character’s predicament by ove
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Mar 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014

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
The Drowning Girl is a hypnotic, beautiful ghost story I’m going to write a ghost story now set in Providence, Rhode Island. In New England, in Lovecraft country. The narrator, India Morgan Phelps, Imp, is a young artist diagnosed with disorganized schizophrenia and who (in parenthesis) claims to be a distant relative to Lovecraft, but she doesn’t much care for his stories His prose is too florid and I find his stories silly , but he was right about that thing about man’s greatest and old ...more
aPriL does feral sometimes
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.

Apr 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Bark  |  Ladies Of Horror Fiction
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
Jan 21, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Aug 04, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: paranormal
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 wri
Aug 22, 2014 rated it did not like it
Disappointing twaddle.
A promising start, but it doesn't build or develop in any way. It reads like a work developed during a Creative Writing course; pretentious and self-conscious.
As for the reams and reams of "this is what it's really like to have a mental illness" stream-of-consciousness passages; oh puh-lease.
Give me Janet Frame any day.
Mar 05, 2012 rated it did not like it
Well, The Drowing Girl was not an enjoyable read for me. I don't hate the book, don't have any strong feelings about it, but I “didn't like” it, hence the 1 star rating. The book is well written and I probably would have given it 2 stars, if there had been more of a payoff at the end, but there isn't, so the book wasn't an "ok" read for me.

Overall, less would have been more and there were too many elements mixed together, without them being sufficiently relevant to the story.

First of all, India
All Things Urban Fantasy
Jan 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 22, 2015 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Lovers of psycho-horror
Recommended to Bill by: Group read
I finished this last night. I did not really enjoy it, though I think it a well done novel and well-researched. I googled a lot of the names and such and surprised how much was real. I do like novels that cause me to do this.

I'd consider it a PsychoHorror as well as an exploration of schizophrenia with obsessive tendencies. From a medical point of view it is a good description of thought disorders, especially those with confused reality—psychosis. Perhaps the most telling part was when Imp went
Jul 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The only adequate words to describe this story have already been written by Caitlin R. Kiernan and they are known collectively as The Drowning Girl. I cannot be more sincere in saying that this book is a unique experience that haunts the reader who dares to open the cover. The fabric of reality is always warping and melting and molding into something else and its fascinating because ultimately it leaves the reader to decide for themselves what is and isn't real. ...more
Tyler J Gray
28 pages in, one chapter. I can't do it. The rambling, the unreliable narrator, and looking at reviews...the not knowing. It's driving me up a wall already. I struggled through that first chapter, and that's not something I could say before. It seems it's not my kinda book. I'm sorry. ...more
Kendare Blake
Sep 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Everything Kiernan touches turns to gold. THE DROWNING GIRL plunges the depths. Just read it. It's an experience. ...more
Dec 10, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars

Mogsy (MMOGC)

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
Jan 17, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror, fiction
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
Jessica Woodbury
Oct 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lgbtq, horror
I was a little wary of this book at first, I don't like the subgenre of "is there a ghost or am I crazy" as it can portray mental health in a really messed up light. But THE DROWNING GIRL is not asking that question at all. It simply asks what the impact of the supernatural is on a person who has mental health issues. Our protagonist, Imp, writes in the first person and chooses to tell her own story, with full awareness of the places in her story where she is not entirely reliable and where her ...more
Mar 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Kate O'Hanlon
Mar 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lgbt, horror
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
Aug 01, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
David Sven
Jul 29, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
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
Jul 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
John McNee
Feb 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Donnie Darko Book: Introduction by Jake Gyllenhaal
  • The Boy Who Drew Monsters
  • Entre estantes
  • O Peso do Pássaro Morto
  • Adivinha quem não voltou pra casa?
  • Jantar Secreto
  • Experimental Film
  • The Demonologist
  • Bom Dia, Verônica
  • Uma Duas
  • Um Útero é do Tamanho de um Punho
  • As 220 Mortes de Laura Lins
  • Selvagem
  • Yellow Jessamine
  • A Senhora da Magia (As Brumas de Avalon #1)
  • A Spectral Hue
  • Let's Go Play at the Adams'
See similar books…
Caitlín Rebekah Kiernan (born 26 May 1964) is the author of science fiction and dark fantasy works, including ten novels; many comic books; and more than two hundred published short stories, novellas, and vignettes. She is also the author of scientific papers in the field of paleontology.

(from Wikipedia)

Related Articles

  Author Casey McQuiston took the romance world by storm with her 2019 debut, Red, White & Royal Blue. A double Goodreads Choice Award winner...
300 likes · 44 comments
“Language is a poor enough means of communication as it is. So we should use all the words we have.” 1096 likes
“Ghosts are those memories that are too strong to be forgotten for good, echoing across the years and refusing to be obliterated by time.” 70 likes
More quotes…