Read To Heaven by Water by Justin Cartwright Online


Now that his wife is dead, retired television news anchor, David Cross, believes that he is more himself than he has been for forty years. When Nancy was alive, he had secrets that he kept from her. Now he has a secret that he must keep from his children, Ed and Lucy, namely that he is in some ways happier now than he was when their mother was alive. To Heaven by Water isNow that his wife is dead, retired television news anchor, David Cross, believes that he is more himself than he has been for forty years. When Nancy was alive, he had secrets that he kept from her. Now he has a secret that he must keep from his children, Ed and Lucy, namely that he is in some ways happier now than he was when their mother was alive. To Heaven by Water is a touching and hilarious portrait of the Cross family, trying in their own fashion to come to terms with their loss. David knows that his children are perplexed by his increasingly compulsive behaviour while Ed's marriage to the lovely Rosalie, a former ballet dancer, is suffering strain, and Lucy is being stalked by her ex-boyfriend. Both children worry that their father will soon find a new partner. Over all three of them hangs the memory of Nancy. The book opens as David is taking time out with his brother in the Kalahari Desert, re-living his tumultuous and uplifting memories of Rome where he worked on a film with Richard Burton. Back home in London, Ed is trying to balance his affair with a young woman in his office with his real love for his wife, who is unable to conceive the child she longs for. And Lucy, who has just been voted No. 6 in the Evening News section devoted to beautiful and brainy women, is a young woman in pursuit of her real self. To Heaven by Water is a wonderful story of friendship, forgiveness and of love that comes from unexpected directions; it is an exploration of what we might hope for from this life and. in particular. the possibility of transcendence. Into the beautifully observed and subtly composed texture of this tale of middle-class London life, Justin Cartwright weaves sudden shocks that tear it apart, moments of sex and revenge that appear from a cloudless sky to take the reader's breath away....

Title : To Heaven by Water
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780747598145
Format Type : Hardback
Number of Pages : 303 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

To Heaven by Water Reviews

  • Kiwiflora
    2019-03-28 11:19

    Symbolism, symbolism and more symbolism: this book is overflowing with it! Even before starting the story, the title sets the ball rolling. The title refers to the ferryman, Charan, from ancient Greek mythology who ferries the dead across the River Styx to the afterlife. This 'life after death' idea dominates the novel and pre-occupies the thoughts and actions of the main character, David Cross. David is middle aged, recently widowed, recently retired, and is really wondering what he is here for, what does he do now, and where is love. Dylan Thomas and his epic 'The Waste Land', Dr Faustus who sold his soul to the devil, amongst others dominate David's thoughts. I actually wonder if he is slightly depressed, but he comes across as bemused or puzzled rather than depressed. Prior to retirement he was a bit of celebrity, having been a long-standing and highly regarded news anchor/journalist, and in his younger days a fearless and exacting foreign correspondent. He had a life, and now that he is out of the public limelight, he really just wants to know what he wants to do with the rest of it. So he appears to be going through what his adult children consider is a mid-life crisis. He joins the gym - spends a lot of time pondering on the rowing machine, changes his dress style, starts to wear bracelets, becomes a bit too 'thin', doesn't seem to be missing his recently passed wife, only feeling a little bit guilty about it and not really understanding why. And naturally, he wonders about love. The absolute highlight of his life was a summer break in Rome in 1967, when as an aspiring actor, he finds himself in the inner circle of Richard Burton who is making a movie in Rome in the title role of Dr Faustus. The new Mrs Burton is also there, captivating every man in the place. Naturally David falls in love with a girl he meets on the set, and this relationship sets the tone for the rest of his life. His two adult children, Lucy and Ed, are also trying to sort out their own lives. Ed is a lawyer, married to an ex-ballet dancer who is desperately trying to conceive a child, and Lucy is dealing with a stalker boyfriend while cementing her career as an expert in ancient coinage. An odd bunch of people really you might think! But probably going through all the various crises and issues that we all may face from time to time. What I really enjoyed about this novel was David himself. He could be totally unlikeable really considering the kind of high profile life he has had, quite selfish and self absorbed, and there are elements of that to his character. But he does have considerable empathy for his friends, his children, and in probably some of the best writing of the novel, his relationship with his brother. This is not a novel of action, but a very insightful study of why we do what we do, and what we think we may be here for.

  • Lynda
    2019-03-31 12:39

    This wonderful novel is prefaced by the awesome comment on existence by the Venerable Bede : 'Such, he said 'O King, seems to me the present life of men on earth , in comparison with that time which to us is uncertain, as if when on a winter's night you sit feasting with your earls and thanes ,a single swallow should fly swiftly into the hall, and coming in at one door instantly fly out through another. In that time in which it is indoors it is indeed not touched by the fury of winter, but yet this smallest space of calmness being passed almost in a flas, fro winter going in to winter again,it is lost to your eyes. Somewhat like this appears the life of a man, but of what follows or what went before, we are utterly ignorant. Justin Cartwright is in my view an author of deceptive grace. His writing is elegant and fluent abrupted by singular jarring moments which tell us that life is not a linear process. This is a literary novel full of allusions to the great wordsmithsof the past including Gerald Manley Hopkins and T.S.Eliot concerning the strange and quirky nature of existence, the notion of parents and children and the bonds of friendship,fraternity and family. Set for the most part i a brilliantly depicted modern malaise ridden London the story is bracketed by a visit to the Kalahari Desert in whose scorching exposure the mores of the Capitalist West are juxtaposed becoming akin to a shimmering mirage. Highly recommended

  • Sandy
    2019-03-29 11:37

    This was a really good book. Cartwright is a very insightful, good writer. I was constantly finding description of things that were, in my writer's mind, just little nuggets of gold. .... example.... when David visits his sickly older brother in Africa..... 'they embraced, something they have never done before. Despite his size, Guy has an insubstantial feel, as though he has been winnowed out.' 'Winnowed out' wow! what an image of this man this phrase gives me - thin, fragile, tenuous, one likely to blow away on a breeze.... And this one: David has just returned to London after 6 months in the Kalahari. The skies over London.... "It is winter and they are a host to politely jostling, obese, grey, dull clouds, great udders of rain. Rain is falling now, grudging but persistent."...... I would never have thought of rain clouds as 'udders' but that is just what they look like!... and rain being 'grudging'. What great ways to visualize the sky! There is so much more, I used about 15 pages of my journal copying passages into it. This is not an adventurous or fast paced story. It's a novel about people in normal circumstances and how they see the world and respond to it.... Marvelous! A real gem!

  • Beejay
    2019-03-22 10:25

    WOW - what a privilege. I got to conduct a little interview with Justin Cartwright, a gracious man. If you would like to check out that interview, visit my blog at http://www.beejay4016books.blogspot.comI would to see you there. And if you like it, please read my other reviews posted on the blog, and you may like to follow my blogs.__________________________________With an opening sentence of “Deep in the Kalahari, two brothers, Guy and David Cross, no longer young, are sitting by a campfire.” Justin Cartwright had me hooked. I mean, such a lovely use of the elegantly simple comma, not to mention the description of the men as “no longer young” resonating with a line from Don Quixote, just had to usher in a great reading experience. And it did.So many books are described as being “multi-layered” these days that that has become quite hackneyed and almost yawn-inducing. But here, with this lovely “To Heaven by Water”, we do indeed have a book which is multi-layered, which comes at life from vastly different directions, which deals with so many aspects of life – loving, aging, false hope, self-denial, self-obsession, greed in all its guises – that I can’t really imagine any reader not finding themselves in at least one clever phrase, one revealing, perhaps embarrassing, conversation or encounter. And thus, of course, the book appeals not just to that little section of the brain which revels in a damned good read but also that rather large section which deals with ego and self-reflection.What is it about? Well, that is covered so well in these parts that I don’t need to go over the details of the story. Let’s just say the main character, David Cross, recently widowed and newly retired famous television anchor man and international correspondent, is examining his life, dealing with accusations directed at others that he has long buried, facing up to the demons and shortcomings in his own character, and through his dealings with his children, his brother and his friends, learning also to forgive himself and those he has judged so censoriously. We also get to look at the world through the eyes of David’s daughter and son, Lucy and Ed, two people who are now facing life without the umbrella of their mother’s existence and finding themselves getting rather rained upon. And then, of course, we meet David’s brother, Guy, who wanders the Kalahari like some ancient mystic – one almost expects him to live on wild honey and grubs – usually off his face on dope, sometimes rambling poetically and philosophically, sometimes just like the boring stoner in the corner at a party you should have left an hour ago.I’ve marked a few bits and pieces in of the book which I think are worth mentioning, whether for beautiful writing, pithy comment, or simply for a blending of words that make you go “Oh wow” as per: “This is what getting old produces in some people, a deliberate withdrawal from the hurts and insults – the acknowledgement of lack of presence.” A bit sad that one, but very clever.And now, when David is watching a ballet performance: "More and more David sees in art a desperate urge to fix ourselves in the universe – which he finds moving.” I’m glad I’m not the only one moved to tears at concerts and the like.And here David is looking back on his relationship with Richard Burton and the price Burton paid for his fame: “And that is what celebrity means to ordinary people, the power to escape the constraints of daily life. Burton had enormous amounts of money, the most beautiful woman in the world, and a voice which contained all the promise and possibility of human endeavour. What a burden for a miner’s son with a drink problem. Elizabeth was his reward: Her lips suck forth my soul: see where it flies But he had left his first love and his children in Wales and in his heart he knew that he had committed a crime against nature.”And then, David here reflecting on his time of reporting hideous news: “He became a master of the sonorous platitude, a safe pair of hands, but also someone who graced the news with a kind of bogus gravitas. He wondered if they were living in a time of madness or merely the same world charged by the clamour for sensation.”Wow moments, indeed.And now, after David has been invited to address a local book group, this little gem (which of course doesn’t relate to OUR book group): “Book clubs, he thinks, are cover for the myriad longings and disappointments of female life. Women have a far stronger sense than men of what life might have been.”And do all the people say “Amen” here, or a resounding, “Nay, nay”?I found the next comments almost quite unnerving due to the fact that when you read them you know, without a doubt, they are correct: “At Global they prepared stories on the problem of lawlessness and out-of-c0ntrol teenagers and mindless crimes of violence and schoolgirl pregnancy with relish, but they never suggested that in large swathes of the country this was perfectly acceptable, even traditional. In his experience, depraved behaviour is often the norm.”And now, just a love, very evocative sentence: “The streets are anticipating winter: they already have a defensive look – they crouch.” Don’t you know exactly what he means there, particularly anyone who has lived, or does live, in cold climes?And now David’s daughter, Lucy, thinking of what was written about her in a magazine article: “Her father once told her, quoting somebody or other, that diplomats lie to journalists and then believe what the journalists have written.”How clever is that? I keep thinking I should send that quote to some politicians.And here, Lucy again, after a particularly terrifying and traumatic experience in her own apartment: “They may be killing each other casually with knives and guns down in South London, but here, in the still-living radius of her mother, most of us are terrified of randomness.”So true – we all like to abrogate our casual and random acts of violence to a different socio-economic group, a distant location on the globe, a younger, or older, age group, so that we can maintain our lovely veneer of “civilisation”.I hope the above makes you want to rush down to your local bookshop or library and find your own way “To Heaven by Water”. Happy reading.

  • Jayne Charles
    2019-04-02 08:25

    This was simply a great book, just the sort of thing I like to read. It was full of wit and wisdom, and though the plot was gentle it was never, even for a moment, boring. The sheer breadth of this author’s vocabulary was underlined by the fact that he was able to conjure up the exact word to describe Gordon Brown’s mouth (“coelacanth”). I had to google it, and was it spot-on.If there was any disappointment for me it was that we didn’t see nearly enough of the character Adam, whose rant about novels in chapter one was roll-around-on-the-floor funny.Definitely one of my top ten reads this year

  • Hichantel
    2019-04-04 10:21

    Total navel-gazing book. You keep waiting for it to get to the point or the plot, but it never does. I only read it because I was on a long, international flight with nothing else to read or watch.

  • Gingerconnearney
    2019-03-27 09:28

    Just 58 pages into this book, I am touched by the insights into the complexity of navigating modern life just as I was with "The Promise of Happiness".

  • sonia
    2019-04-03 09:35

    Good story with family issues and some thought provoking pieces. This author understands how people tick.

  • Mark
    2019-04-15 11:40

    The happy family in this novel is far from happy and self destructs with little provocation. Once mother, the matriarch, the rock, ‘with her sensibly ordered universe’ has gone the family is rudderless and without focus or shape. We discover that maybe Mum wasn’t without secrets of her own. Infidelity and secrets and lies, so deeply buried, surface and foment disunity and fragmentation amongst the surviving members. ‘People’s lives, when you get to know them well, are infinitely more complex than you could ever have imagined.”Children wonder about their parents and doubt their commitment and fidelity within the marriage, whilst parents worry that their children are taking the wrong course and making poor choices.David, recently widowed, is the central character in the book, and on reaching retirement age, rather than wallowing in self pity he sees the end of his marriage, and highly visible career in public life, as an opportunity to shed unnecessary materialism, work out obsessively, and embrace he knows not what, except an overwhelming desire to simplify,‘He has an urgent need to get rid of everything and to tread lightly on the surface of the earth.’The betrayals that bedevil all relationships, and the tensions within all families, are revealed unsparingly and chaos results. Both young and old can welcome the freedom to live life recklessly and without restraint, “And now, even though I have done something reprehensible, morally inexcusable and possibly ruinous, I feel perversely happy.”For some sex is of great significance whilst others see the act as little more than a diversion and distraction. This novel cuts like a scalpel, a sharp and cynical examination of middle class life in the leafy suburbs where the ‘lovvies’ are celebrated for their style, panache and persuasive opinions expressed in the media but are exposed for their frailties. A newsreader eschews his former life where he could turn on ‘bogus gravitas’ at will, and welcomes retirement and the opportunity to live anonymously outside the public gaze and no longer pandering to hits appetite for sensationalism. A young hot shot lawyer is free and easy with his sexual favours disregarding propriety and ready to jeopardise his own fledgling career. Esteemed professions and hard won reputations count for nothing as sexual energies are given free rein and create disharmony and bitter recrimination.Blunt and shocking at times, the novel has its jarring moments which surprise and appall, but it is an unforgettable journey with great resonance for anyone of ‘middle age’ reflecting on what has gone before and how much might be left ahead.

  • R. T.
    2019-04-13 09:20

    I read this book out loud to my sister while we were on vacation. She didn't care for it after reading the first three pages and asked me what I thought.Well, I thought it was a little dense and maybe even pretentious but as we read on, it became wonderful. It's a complex and sometimes hilarious story of how disruption and loss can make us acknowledge our deepest desires: the need to be safe and the need to be loved. Salvation and charity. And somehow Justin Cartwright manages to wrangle a coherent and lovely story out of the lives of a family where boundaries are in short supply (and some of those boundaries are transgressed in a truly shocking way ...)My favorite minor character is David's longtime friend, Adam. I don't have the book in front of me, so I will attempt to paraphrase, but there is a scene where Adam, a successful author, is giving a drunken talk to a large group at another friend's bookstore and he exhorts the gathered crowd to keep the practice of reading books alive: "Read until your eyes bleed!"David Cross is a retired newscaster who has recently lost his wife. His grown children, whom he loves dearly, fear that in "lightening the load" he is going to fade out of their lives. He's not only become a "gym-rat" and growing fit (but gaunt, so everyone asks him if he's okay) but he's also contemplating selling the family home. His search ends—and begins anew—with a sort of pilgrimage he makes with his brother, Guy, in Africa. Guy is obsessed with the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins, in particular "The Windhover," and as David sticks pins in Guy's adulation of Hopkins, the words of the poem still have a life of their own that Guy, and eventually David, never tire of.Water is everywhere and sometimes nowhere—it drowns, it cleanses, it dries up, it gushes, it provides the matter for a baptism.To heaven by water.

  • Andrew Cox
    2019-04-04 12:26

    Cartwright appears a very versatile writer. What a contrast this was to "The Song before it is Sung". I have had this book a long time but was put off reading it because it was about the death of a wife & mother & I thought I might find it a bit raw!! Not a bit of it. It was funny, poignant, surprising, thought provoking & overall uplifting. At times depictions of poorer people could be a little stereotypical and like many authors he seems more comfortable describing affluent folk but this did not detract from the emotional depth of the book. Excellent!

  • Mary Wagner
    2019-04-08 13:20

    David, whom I considered to be the main character, is a somewhat recent widower. His adult daughter and son are the two other main characters, and the point of view varies from chapter to chapter. I think the book nicely touched on some aspects of father-child, and child-father, and sibling-sibling relationships. While the characters did not always approve or understand each others' actions, they did love and support each other.This is not a book with a dramatic climax, or major action scenes. Rather it is a thoughtful, and I felt, somewhat realistic look at what happens to a family after the glue (the mother) dies.

  • Claire
    2019-03-21 12:32

    This is the first time I have read this author, and I was impressed with his writing ability. However, I couldn't quite figure out if he wanted me to dislike the characters as much as I did. They all struck me as very self-absorbed, elitist alcoholics, so their search to find meaning and happiness left me less than fascinated. I felt the author could have chosen characters with a least some complexity rather than this crew of wealthy, shallow ,intellectually arrogant and morally bankrupt people. Again, I did think he was a very good writer, but such a waste of talent!

  • Carl
    2019-03-29 11:36

    The writing is wonderful in this piece. The only part of the narrative I found disappointing was the longer dialogue sections in the last quarter of the book. The author has caught that feeling of growing old and not knowing whether you have contributed anything of value. That was the most poignant part for me, especially in the parts the protagonist had with his brother in the desert.

  • Judith Yeabsley
    2019-04-03 09:18

    Excellently written. Unfortunately was based around rich Londoners with questionable morals and I jsut couldn't get to like the characters. I also didn't get close to any of them and they remained quite one dimensional. Ironically I would read another of his books just to see whether a new subject matter would provide a better read.

  • Susan
    2019-03-28 09:34

    Justin Cartwright is a fantastic find! Having read Other People's Money, I headed straight to find another in my local library and found this. Even better. The story and characters really drew me in. Some of the issues covered - death of a parent, and infidelity - were very real to me. This is a writer who understands what makes people tick! Can't wait to read more by him.

  • Helen
    2019-03-19 15:17

    Our reading group was divided about this book. Some loved it, others didn't. Whilst, for me, this was quite a readable novel, I found that I did not like any of the characters (apart from Lucy, the daughter) so as a result this coloured how I felt about the book as a whole. It's really hard to have a positive reaction to a novel if you have little or no sympathy with the characters.

  • Loretta
    2019-04-08 14:15

    I have always had difficulty understanding Gerard Manley Hopkins and I still do. He figures prominently in this book which covers the issues faced by a variety of family members struggling to discover life's meaning. It was a bit difficult identifying with the characters.

  • Lucy J Jeynes
    2019-04-08 08:29

    Seems to me that Justin Cartwright has the gift of capturing ordinary families and finding the drama of everyday life. Death too, and ageing. But this is not a morbid book. His comments on relationships can ring too close for comfort, some days.

  • Anne
    2019-03-31 14:20

    The writing is immaculate as always, but there is too much introspection and not enough plot. After a couple of chapters, I realised I had read it before, but I had totally forgotten what happened, it had made such little impression on me.

  • Ilya
    2019-04-11 14:42

    Justin Cartwright is a writer meant for me. Or that's how it feels, reading his books, getting into his characters' minds.This one lacks the sheer delightfulness of Other People's Money or The Promise of Happiness but it's profound and moving and was a good companion while I had a bad cold.

  • Kathy Mcanulla
    2019-04-04 14:21

    I usually really enjoy Justin Cartwright's book but I was a little disappointed with this. It is entertaining as the author has a great eye for detail and social commentary, but I wasn't really engaged with the characters, and some of the behaviour was unbelievable.

  • Sally Anfilogoff
    2019-04-07 08:36

    I enjoyed this and was gripped from the start. Good characters and fun plot kept me going and I liked the level of detail - reminiscent of Anne Tyler's style - that you get with Cartwright. Basically that's why I read fiction.

  • Anne
    2019-03-24 12:17

    It was a male book really and it had the dispassionate attitude of a make narrator!

  • Eileen
    2019-03-26 12:36

    decent prose, often silly characters, unsatisfactory ending

  • BaryRosa
    2019-04-14 12:13

    Justin Cartwright's style is just beautiful. He writes like a dream. Heard a good interview with him on

  • Teryl
    2019-03-30 13:43

    Really enjoyed this

  • Jackie Trimble
    2019-04-03 14:34

    Just okay - I found it a little cumbersome at times.

  • Teresa D
    2019-04-02 16:37

    First time I have read a book by Justin Cartwright will certainly look out for more.

  • Zena
    2019-03-22 11:26

    An OK read, not fab.. probably wouldn't suggest it to anyone!