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Deep Water (James Bradley, Hamish Hamilton)

The first chapter of Deep Water is named ‘The Word for World Is Water’, a reference to science fiction writer Ursula K Le Guin’s novella The Word for World Is Forest. Le Guin’s fiction was deeply attuned to the effects of capitalism on the environment, and this sets the tone for Deep Water, a book of foreboding joy arising from the impact of human life on Earth’s wondrous oceans. James Bradley (The Resurrectionist, Ghost Species) adopts a wide lens in Deep Water, from the inspiring moment humans see the blue planet for the first time on the Apollo 8 mission to the alarming reality that human interference led to the Antarctic ice shelf collapse. Readers learn in one chapter about how sea creatures communicate; another chapter presents the bleak effects of global shipping, including human trafficking and damage to ocean reefs. Deep Water also looks at the relationships First Nations people have with the seas, and Darwin’s early understanding of underwater landscapes. If the concepts are challenging to digest, Bradley’s prose is a delight to read. The book’s enduring message is about the effect of climate change and how we must reverse it. If readers need convincing, this book may do it. Those who liked Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything will enjoy Bradley’s dedication to research in tackling such a significant topic, as well as his use of first-person prose.

Books+Publishing reviewer: Becca Whitehead is a features and content writer based in Naarm-Melbourne. Books+Publishing is Australia’s number-one source of pre-publication book reviews.


Category: Friday Unlocked reviews Reviews