Listen free for 30 days

Listen with a free trial

One credit a month, good for any title to download and keep.
Unlimited listening to the Plus Catalogue - thousands of select Audible Originals, podcasts and audiobooks.
Exclusive member-only deals.
No commitment - cancel anytime.
Buy Now for £17.99

Buy Now for £17.99

Pay using card ending in
By completing your purchase, you agree to Audible's Conditions of Use and authorise Audible to charge your designated card or any other card on file. Please see our Privacy Notice, Cookies Notice and Interest-based Ads Notice.

Summary

Brought to you by Penguin.

Winner of the Costa First Novel Award 2021

Winner of Debut of the Year at the British Book Awards 2022

Winner of Bad Form Book of the Year Award.

Number one best seller in The Times.

Shortlisted for Waterstones Book of the Year.

Longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize and the Gordon Burn Prize 2021.

A National Book Award '5 Under 35' Honoree.

Two young people meet at a pub in South East London. Both are Black British, both won scholarships to private schools where they struggled to belong, both are now artists—he a photographer, she a dancer—trying to make their mark in a city that by turns celebrates and rejects them. Tentatively, tenderly, they fall in love. But two people who seem destined to be together can still be torn apart by fear and violence.

At once an achingly beautiful love story and a potent insight into race and masculinity, Open Water asks what it means to be a person in a world that sees you only as a Black body, to be vulnerable when you are respected only for strength, to find safety in love, only to lose it. With gorgeous, soulful intensity, Caleb Azumah Nelson has written the most essential debut of recent years.

©2020 Caleb Azumah Nelson (P)2020 Penguin Audio

Critic reviews

"A tender and touching love story, beautifully told." (Observer 10 Best Debut Novelists of 2021)

"Hands-down the best debut I've read in years." (The Times

"A beautiful and powerful novel about the true and sometimes painful depths of love." (Candice Carty-Williams, best-selling author of Queenie

"An unforgettable debut...it's Sally Rooney meets Michaela Coel meets Teju Cole." (New York Times

"A love song to Black art and thought." (Yaa Gyasi, best-selling author of Homegoing and Transcendent Kingdom

What listeners say about Open Water

Average customer ratings
Overall
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    155
  • 4 Stars
    61
  • 3 Stars
    30
  • 2 Stars
    15
  • 1 Stars
    5
Performance
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    148
  • 4 Stars
    49
  • 3 Stars
    20
  • 2 Stars
    8
  • 1 Stars
    8
Story
  • 4.5 out of 5 stars
  • 5 Stars
    137
  • 4 Stars
    49
  • 3 Stars
    28
  • 2 Stars
    10
  • 1 Stars
    9

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Poetic writing style but falls short on plot

This writer definitely has a huge potential, but the way this book was written was quite frustrating. The writer alludes to so many really important themes throughout the book such as race relations in London, violence and imprisonment of young black men, the challenges of being black at private school- but most of these stories all take place in snippets of the protagonist’s thoughts and are are not satisfactorily explored in the main plot. Features of the main plot by contrast can seem repetitive and overwritten e.g. endless descriptions of taking various forms of public transport around London to meet a girl, and what seems like dozens of paragraphs spent describing what it feels like to smoke a cigarette while eating chicken and chips- all through a screen of metaphors. This novel would do better by ditching at least half of the love story, and descriptions of south London, and instead describing some of the themes of conflict in more detail which whilst alluded to, are never satisfactorily explored.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Amazing

loved it beautifully written ,great story. A must read. The language is beautiful too Thanks

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Very enjoyable, like enjoyable butter

Very wonderful to have listened to the author read it out himself. A treasured experience.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

One of the best books I’ve read in the last decade

Stylistics alone put this book at the top of its game, and I’m inclined not to write too much because the book speaks its own merit. A must read.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Breathtaking, hopeful, heartbreaking, beautiful.

Incredible portrayal of love, Blackness, racism, joy and yearning. I wanted to rewind and re listen to every sentence.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Thoughts

Tender, poetic and accurate.
Make a screen adaptation please but choose the actors very carefully.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • MT
  • 28-09-21

An intimate and lyrical book of depth and feeling

Absolutely beautiful. Full of poetry and rhythm, it reads like music and rap. The quiet voice of the narrator (the author) draws you in and makes it feel like a very intimate experience. This is a book of romance, Black joy, London, sharing drinks and food, generational trauma, and about being seen. I highly recommend this important book.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

beautifully told

Lovely story and so easy to listen (pretty much got through it in a day).

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Deep

Loved the subtlety of the witer-narrator's tone. His reading did not stifle my imagination but enhanced it by not overacting. Beautifully paced reading of a gripping story that I wished would not end, but also needed it to so I could quietly contemplate its threads of blackness, love, loss and freedom. This book spoke.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Poetic

An overwhelming feeling of nostalgia captured me througout this book - it took me to places of my youth, summer days,the feeling of being understood and misunderstood at the same time, finding your place and realising your ttuth.

Its poetic and emotive - beautifully written, love his use of language, theres a honest and relatable simplicity to it. It was a dream to listen to his voice.

He lives in the moment. His description of the black experience from rhe perspective of a young black male is powerful and emotive. It tells a different narrative from whats always in the media. Its senstive and touching and heart wrenching. I loved way he expressed male vulnerability - beautifully done. This novel will say with me.

Sort by:
Filter by:
  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
Profile Image for Libby Thompson
  • Libby Thompson
  • 15-06-21

Moving and original

Deeply moving, this book has themes of love and friendship. It’s set in present day London and is about two friends who fall in love but struggle to stay together. With original prose, the author offers profound insight into what it is like to grow up in the UK when you have black skin. Though harrowing and confronting at times, this perspective is critical to understand if we are to make this world a better place. I particularly loved the way the author describes the moment when two people meet and somehow both just know the course of their lives has irrevocably altered and destiny is unfolding. Moments like those are often difficult to convey in words but this author does it beautifully.

The book is narrated by the author. it’s perhaps not as polished a performance as a professional narrator’s would be - but his voice gives authenticity to the story that really works in this case. It’s a compelling read. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. One of the best books I’ve read this year. What an incredible debut. I can’t wait to read more works by this writer.