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Water Shall Refuse Them

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  761 ratings  ·  130 reviews
The heatwave of 1976. Following the accidental drowning of her sister, sixteen-year-old Nif and her family move to a small village on the Welsh borders to escape their grief. But rural seclusion doesn't bring any relief. As her family unravels, Nif begins to put together her own form of witchcraft - collecting talismans from the sun-starved land. That is, until she meets M ...more
Paperback, 257 pages
Published July 4th 2019 by Dead Ink
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Average rating 3.61  · 
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It’s the summer of 1976, the year of an infamous heatwave in the UK, and teenage Nif and her family – mum, dad and little brother Lorry – are spending a month in a cottage on the Welsh borders. Together, they’re living through the aftermath of a shared tragedy; the getaway is supposed to be a chance to recalibrate. Left largely to her own devices, Nif pairs up with the strange boy next door, Mally. Meanwhile, her parents both (for very different reasons) become fascinated by Mally's mother.

The a
Jul 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
At the moment Malta is going through a heatwave. When you go out the sun’s heat pounds at your head, sweat drips off you and everything is hazy. Thankfully I read Water Shall Refuse them in my air-conditioned living room but I could definitely relate to the book.

The setting is the UK heatwave of 1976, the one that lasted a month and a half and temperatures went as high as 36 C. Nif’s (short for Jennifer) family (mother,father and younger brother) have just suffered a tragedy and are staying in r
Alice Slater
May 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this witchy ritualistic obsessive coming of age story, set in a remote English village during the heatwave of 1976. Languid, dark, tragic: it’s like The Wasp Factory meets The Girls, but also kind of like nothing else.
Oct 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
When I was younger I used to love watching the old British hammer horror movies, there was a certain elegance to them that you just didn't get in other movies. This book is based in 1976 and in the middle of a long heatwave, everything feels slightly washed out, right from the off I got the same feeling of awe that I got when I started a hammer horror as a kid. Due to the heatwave, in the book, characters like Nif stand out more than they normally would. It's very clever writing to have created ...more
Jul 26, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 rounded down

My first venture into the "horror folk" genre, this is a creepy slow-burn of a novel set in the heatwave of '76. It sounds a bit silly but I think it helped that I read this in the mini heatwave we had earlier this month - the atmosphere was perfectly fitting for the sweaty, lazy afternoons I spent reading the novel. The setting is a Welsh valley village where the locals fear outsiders, especially the new arrivals - Nif, our teenage protagonist and her family. They move to the vi
Jul 07, 2019 rated it it was ok
I'm sorry but this re-telling of Scooby Doo on Zombie Island was just too predictable, unrealised and slightly naff.
Dan Coxon
Mar 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Having been a fan of Lucie McKnight Hardy's stories for some time, I couldn't wait to read this debut novel - and I wasn't disappointed. The term 'Folk Horror' will be used in many reviews, and rightly so. This is a novel that taps into local folklore and insular rural societies, spinning an unsettling yarn that's set in the mid-70s but feels unmistakably contemporary in its themes and concerns. Beyond that, though, I was reminded most strongly of Iain Banks's The Wasp Factory, with its Gothic r ...more
Tom Mooney
Aug 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Jesus wept!

This takes a long while to get going but the payoff is massive. It's as dark and disturbing a book as I've read in a long time, full of brooding violence, creepy religious ritual and with a killer ending.

It reminded me a lot of The Wasp Factory, Shirley Jackson and, weirdly at times, Hot Fuzz.

A strange, horrible, rewarding book that is close to - but not quite - great. Still, highly recommended!
Sian Lile-Pastore
Aug 09, 2019 rated it it was ok
This is compelling enough that I read it in a day - but I was so disappointed in it. The Welsh village didn't feel real and neither did the people who lived there and I didn't really get the feeling of the 1976 heatwave either. The twist is pretty obvious from the start and it just all felt really tropey.
Mar 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Water Shall Refuse Them is an retro coming-of-age novel with a horror edge, set in a heatwave in 1970s rural Wales. Sixteen-year-old Nif, her little brother Lorry, and her parents are spending the summer in a cottage in Wales following the death of her sister. Instead of healing, the sweltering atmosphere and isolation only exacerbates their problems: her mother's grief, her father's frustration, Nif's own belief in strange rituals that might bring her answers. Nif meets a strange teenage boy, M ...more
Abbie | ab_reads
Aug 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Many thanks to @deadinkbooks for gifting me a copy of Water Shall Refuse Them - I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend it if you’re looking for a sultry, oppressive read with a serious dark streak!
Nif and her family are still recovering from a tragic accident, deciding to spend a month in rural Wales to clear their heads. But the intense heatwave and strange influence of their new neighbours means their retreat is anything but restful, and Nif finds herself becoming more involved in the o
Charles Thorpe
Jul 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I couldn't put this book down. There's a centripetal force to the narrative that pulls you with it, and you find you're being sucked deeper and deeper toward the center of a mystery, a dark and nasty black hole. It left me feeling profoundly unsettled. It somehow taps into feelings that I think everyone experiences in childhood about order and chaos and the excitement and fear of transgression. It explores the mystery of human beings and who they really are and can they be trusted. The writing m ...more
K.J. Charles
Aug 12, 2019 added it
Shelves: horror, gothic
British folk / psychological horror, somewhere between The Wasp Factory and The Wicker Man. It's set in the 1976 heatwave, and both the stifling heat and the sense of impending threat roll off the page. Beautifully written, properly horrible, a completely compelling read. It doesn't unfold exactly as you expect, and leaves a few loose ends--something of a shame in a shortish and otherwise tight book--but it is definitely a deeply satisfying read in a very nasty way. I was quite unnerved.

Alexandra Pearson
Apr 21, 2019 rated it liked it
A good but not great book. I love a bit of Folk Horror, but felt this relied more on stereotypes of village people than conjuring up the untameable power of nature or the eerieness you can find in folk tales and lore. I also saw the end coming. It's far from terrible, and I know a lot of people will love it, but I found it a little disappointing.
4 stars--this was tough to read in places, but I really liked the book. Reader warning for animal violence (lots!).

This has elements of folk horror and witchcraft mixed with the revulsion of The Wasp Factory. It's a horror-adjacent book that takes place during a drought in the 1970s, with nasty characters, weirdly religious villagers, and a ton of violence.
Aug 07, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
I was bewitched by the comparisons readers are making between this book and the novels of Andrew Michael Hurley. Many of the same intriguing elements are at play: atmospheric and brooding UK settings, clueless pilgrims finding themselves surrounded by volatile locals, a syncretism of Christian and pagan beliefs, unreliable first person narrators, etc. But I'm finding when it comes to my consumption of folk horror that there is a fine line between feeling satisfyingly creeped out and suffocated b ...more
Lady R
Sep 01, 2019 rated it it was ok
Not for me sadly as several people I know loved this. Lots of tropey/cliched characters and an ending that I spotted from very early on but which when it came still seemed too rushed.
Trigger Warnings too for lots of animal and child cruelty.
I really struggled with this book :-(
Priya Sharma
Sep 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I love this book because it puts you right there, in the long, hot summer of 1976, in a Welsh town full of strangeness. I love the witchery skill of the writing. Water shall indeed refuse Lucie McKnight Hardie.
I loved this, only halfway through I was like... when will shit hit the fan? And then I had to wait till the last two chapters but oh boy... this sure was something.

Look I don’t know but this book has many disturbing rituals and dead birds and people lowkey turned on by dead birds. Personally I loved it and I hope it’s more a testament to the author’s talent than proof of my insanity.

Also, the whole thing reminded me a bit of some of my favorite litfic novels: it has the growing tension, mob men
Horror DNA
Jul 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: charlotte-stear
Depending on where you are in the world, you’re most likely experiencing some unusual weather (hello, climate change). Here in the UK we’re complaining about the soaring heat and lack of rain (our poor grass!), we love a moan, especially when it comes to weather. So the timing of Lucie Mcknight Hardy’s first novel is quite perfect. The heatwave depicted in Water Shall Refuse Them is written is such detail that sweat could be dripping from the pages, the suffocating heat intensifies the spirallin ...more
Andy Weston
Jul 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Folk tales seem to be the vibe at the moment, this following hot on the heels of the likes of Lanny and Ghost Wall . Their settings in the British countryside remind us that such stories are all a part of our heritage, often passed on across generations just by word of mouth.
Set an unnamed Welsh town, this is a disturbing story that works well, as from the start the writing is full of ambiguity, the reader drip-fed information that just enables a picture to be built up of what is going on. T
Evie Braithwaite
Aug 06, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, horror
3.5 stars

This was a creepy coming of age story set in a remote village on the Welsh borders during the heatwave of 1976. With the mini heatwave the UK endured recently, the novel’s atmosphere was palpable. In the village, the locals despise the outsiders, something which Nif and her family soon find out when moving into the isolated cottage, there to recalibrate after the drowning of Nif’s younger sister a few months back. During a few short weeks, Nif meets the local boy, Mally, with whom she u
Rachel Louise Atkin
May 11, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: owned
I received an ARC of this book from the publisher, Dead Ink, who are a small UK based company publishing off-the-wall, innovative, and intelligent works of fiction. I requested this because it was marketed as a Shirley Jackson-esque, coming-of-age novel set in the 1970s, which ticked the boxes of things that I love in fiction.

The novel opens with our main character, Nif, riding in the backseat of her family car, cradling a head in her lap. And it's a head that isn't attached to a body. This open
Kathryn Miller
Jun 05, 2019 rated it liked it
An atmospheric and well-written book which is just slightly the wrong length. As a novella it could have been enigmatic and suggestive, or with some of the slighter plot threads and ideas developed more it could have become a satisfying longer novel. As it is, it's just long enough to feel a little too repetitive, for the reader's deduction and imagination to get far enough ahead of the pace of revelation that the second half of the novel lacks punch or pace, and we have time to see the eventual ...more
Daniel Carpenter
Apr 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fascinating and creepy folk horror novel set during a heatwave in the 70's. McKnight Hardy does a great job building the tension between outsiders in a small Welsh town and the fervently religious townsfolk. There are shades of Shirley Jackson and, as other reviewers have pointed out, The Wasp Factory about this - and there is a distinct gothic vibe throughout that Iain Banks' debut also shares, but this is less interested in the macabre Gorey set pieces that The Wasp Factory indulges in, opting ...more
Michael Sellars
Mar 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: horror
Despite its '76 heatwave setting, this is a dark cloud of a book, with its damaged characters limping through an oppressive landscape. Many horror fans may refuse to accept it as 'folk horror' and mainstream readers will almost certainly fail to recognise it as such, but folk horror it is. Past transgressions and strange rituals are threaded through the story and the blazing unBritish sun casts an unnatural glare, creating a bleached-out sense of dread. An intense novel.
Contrary Reader
Aug 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
It appears folk horror is my new thing.

Hail Merricat, mother of all disturbed teens. This one sees Mally and Nif maurauding through the Welsh Valleys, wearing their outsider status as a badge of pride. Totemic and portentous. Oozing with a malignant atmosphere.

Sep 05, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 stars
Feb 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
at first you think it's just about bird skulls, but then it's about bird decapitation.
Ross Jeffery
May 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
If you’ve not heard the name Lucie McKnight Hardy, then you better stand up and take notice – because with her latest offering Water Shall Refuse Them, I firmly believe that it announces her to the literary world and with it introduces a writer that will change the literary landscape for years to come!

Dead Ink have a penchant for discovering and publishing women writers who are not only gifted storytellers, but those who can spin unforgiving and unforgettable eerie tales (Naomi Booth, Sophie Hop
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