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The Skin of Water [Kindle Edition]

G. S. Johnston
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (73 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $12.50
Kindle Price: $2.99
You Save: $9.51 (76%)

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Book Description

Passions flare and alliances shift in this breathtaking story of survival set during the final days of World War II in Hungary.

Young Zeno dreams of moving to Budapest and becoming a great filmmaker in the Hungarian film studios. But one evening he follows Catherine Steiner, a guest at the exclusive lakeside resort where he works as a bellboy, into the forest. Unknowingly he dives into her life, changing his forever.

Her husband is a wealthy industrialist with the power to create – or crush – Zeno. Despite Catherine’s protests, Zeno moves to Budapest and takes a servant’s job in the Steiner house, shining her husband’s shoes while hearing the family’s secrets.

All Zeno and Catherine have are precious hours in a secret apartment, tucked above the uneasy streets of a city at war, their affair a flimsy wall against a future no one can see or predict. Until it arrives.

Editorial Reviews


A fresh and carefully crafted love story set in the run up to the Nazi invasion of Budapest -

Product Details

  • File Size: 1124 KB
  • Print Length: 343 pages
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0071511GO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #19,376 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing!!! February 5, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition
Having just read both books by this author back to back I found it interesting that I was really caught up in this story and yet the other caught up more in the characters. Regardless they are both very intense dramatic stories. Very well written. This particular book I can say without a doubt is now one of my favorite to date that I have ever read. I'm left somewhat inarticulate and still in awe of this story and yes it is that good. Alas there is only 5 stars here to award but this book merits 6. If you enjoyed such books as Sarah's Key or Atonement you will enjoy this one!
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Indie Gem! February 8, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
"There's a skin on water," she said. She made me look at the surface. It bulged, rose up from the rim of the glass. I touched it. Immediately the skin tore apart, the paperclip fell through the glass of water to the bottom. We live on that skin. With all the security of our lives, we live on that skin. We all live on that surface. Ruffle it and we sink.

Zeno dreams of becoming a filmmaker, but his job at an exclusive lakeside retreat serving Nazi officers and Hungary's elite leaves little time for filming. Zeno begins to sneak off into the nearby forest to practice his craft. And that's when he meets Catherine Steiner, the wife of a Hungarian businessman who brings his mistresses to the lake whenever he visits. Zeno is drawn to Catherine, though she is twice his age, so he follows her to Budapest, taking a job as her husband's valet. Drawn into the Steiners' world, Zeno becomes a keeper of secrets for this powerful family. But when the Germans invade Budapest, Zeno understands the limits of the Steiners' power, and realizes it is up to him to save Catherine from the Nazis.

What struck me most about The Skin of Water was how beautifully constructed it is. Throughout the entire narrative G.S. Johnston evokes a feeling of borrowed time, moments savored because they are so fleeting, moments that were not supposed to happen, but they did. Zeno and Catherine live in these moments even as all of Hungary lives on borrowed time, waiting to be invaded either by the Germans or the Russians.

The Skin of Water is beautifully written, professionally edited, and a far worthier read than much of what you might pay five times as much for from a traditional publisher.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully Rich Characters July 17, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
What a beautiful story with such rich characters. The imagery is so amazing you feel you must have visited all the places in the story because you can feel the life they contain. I grew so close to the characters I found myself in tears or with a lump in my throat several times. I can't wait until the next book comes out.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautifully crafted work August 1, 2012
By umbra
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
After reading a segment of GS Johnston's new novel, I was keen to find out how it fitted into the whole. Having just finished the work, I'm very impressed. The novel is beautifully crafted starting with the infatuated, immature, precocious qualities of a young Zeno in love/lust with the beautiful Catherine Steiner and ending with the wisdom that age and experience brings so that seeming contradictions can sit more comfortably together without the need for justification.

The book is peppered with sharp observations about art and life. They appear as asides and give pause for thought: "Does a picture tell a story? Or does a picture make a story?" The author's love of film, music and place comes through clearly and entices the reader to explore the references for themselves.

While reading the novel, I hadn't expected the emotional response to the story from its erotic elements to the despair and sadness following the German occupation of Budapest and subsequently.

Throughout the work, there are many historical references and facts that weave their way through the romance of the main characters. I'd not thought of Budapest as two cities and I wasn't aware of some of the specific episodes mentioned in the novel. While looking up some information about Budapest after finishing the novel, I came across a photo of the memorial, Shoes on the Danube Promenade; it is all the more poignant after linking it to one of the episodes in the novel.

At the same time as I read The Skin of Water, I was reading The Captive Mind by Czeslaw Milosz (following a recommendation in a book by Tony Judt). While I found the style of The Captive Mind a bit dated, and despite the very different context for the work, the character of Tibi strongly resonates with the characters described by Milosz. Freaky!

The Skin of Water demonstrates a wonderful maturity. It is a work I could easily read again and rates highly among the books in my library.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gentlemanly Sensuos September 9, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I was captivated from the beginning as I viewed the scenery through the young film maker's lens. I love historical romance, but I confess that The skin of Water far exceeded my expectations. I was pulled into a part of WWII in Hungary, a country I knew little about.
Mr Johnston so gentlemanly touched the parts of my womanly senses so much the I "O_O_O_o and a-a-a-, sigh" with passion along with the two secret lovers. the only problem with the well written content was that I read it while riding 1,000 miles on a Grey Hound bus. When I made my nearly "orgasmic" sounds along with the characters, OOPS! other passengers turned back to see what I was doing. All I could do was confess, " Good book. Really good Book!"
I hear that men are loving this book , too, maybe its is all the unexpected that appears in a world war, or maybe the romance. Ah, read The skin of Water. So-o-o-o good.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Puzzled by rave reviews
I can't understand all the great reviews for this book. The historical aspects were interesting but the characters were neither believable nor endearing and the writing is choppy... Read more
Published 4 days ago by Jessica
5.0 out of 5 stars Love this Book!
I absolutely loved this book. I read it while on holidays and even read it in the pool, it was too good to put down! Read more
Published 1 month ago by Kate Zarboch
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!!!
Excellent!!! I don't think I can add anything new to review by gentlemanly. It is just excellent in all respects.
Published 1 month ago by Carolina Moon
5.0 out of 5 stars What a wonderful story. I was enraptured
What a wonderful story. I was enraptured. I have to agree with one other reviewer that I would have liked the story to continue a little further. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Roy
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read
Excellent read. I thoroughly enjoyed this book with a bit of a twist to it.
Published 3 months ago by 70-Cyclone
5.0 out of 5 stars A Memorable Read
Most of the time during our daily living routines, we forget how fragile life is. G. S. Johnston's "The Skin on Water" brings this frailness clearly to life. Read more
Published 3 months ago by joan Kosich
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 5 months ago by PATRICIA T.
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
Too sexual!!!!
Published 6 months ago by Dona Mihlfeld
3.0 out of 5 stars Anbiguous title
A worthwhile read. Holds interest most of time.Title rather ambiguous
Published 6 months ago by carol macarthur
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow, it all ties together
I liked the characters in the book. Each had his role to play and it all worked out. Based on a true story, it has depth and dark undertones of corruption and disloyalty. Read more
Published 7 months ago by G. Crum
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More About the Author

G.S. Johnston is an author of two historical novels, The Skin of Water and Consumption, noted for their complex characters and well-researched settings.

In one form or another, Johnston has always written, at first composing music and lyrics. After completing a degree in pharmacy, a year in Italy re-ignited his passion for writing and he completed a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature. Feeling the need for a broader canvas, he started writing short stories and novels.

Originally from Hobart, Tasmania, Johnston currently lives in Sydney, Australia with two cats - home-loving Reba and the wayward Rose - and Miss Mia, a black and white cuddle dog.

He would be impressed with humanity if someone could succeed in putting an extra hour in every day.

Visit him online at or follow him on Twitter at @GS_Johnston.

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Mesmered - Aug 10, 2011

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