The depths of the ocean are split into five zones: sunlight, twilight, midnight, abyssal and hadal (as in Hades). The five parts of Julia Armfield’s haunting debut novel, Our Wives Under the Sea, take their names from these zones, creating a sense of descent, of movement away from the warmth of love to the chill of the unknown.
Leah is lost, presumed dead, on a deep sea mission on board a submarine. Her wife, Miri, has to continue her mundane life while processing this loss and the attendant uncertainty – until, that is, the Centre in charge of the mission gets in touch with Miri to inform her that Leah has returned. However, as they resume living together again, Leah begins to seem more and more unlike her former self.
The story is less about the circumstances of the mission and more about its effects on their relationship. The narration alternates between the perspectives of Leah and Miri, and between two time frames. In one, Miri’s growing sense of desperation at Leah’s absence is set against Leah’s account of