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The Skin of Water [Kindle Edition]

G. S. Johnston
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 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: #34,113 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
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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
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very good
Published 2 days ago by Susan Hansen
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't miss this book
Don't ignore this book because it is inexpensive. It is wonderful, evocative, moving and memorable. Fall in love with Zeno and Catherine, with Hungary, fall in love with love. Read more
Published 15 days ago by Yoshimi's Mum
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
The only plot or subject was where and how often the couple would have sex.
Published 1 month ago by rox
4.0 out of 5 stars Good read
I enjoyed this book. I liked the reference to historial events n. The conclusion was abit forced.
Published 1 month ago by Millicent Hughes
4.0 out of 5 stars loved loved loved this book
I read a lot and always looking for something different from the boy meets girl falls in love and lives happily ever after. Read more
Published 1 month ago by sharon thompson
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very good book.
Published 1 month ago by nettie f bullock
3.0 out of 5 stars Three stars
The novel takes on in Budapest during the wold war I I . A Jewish family practicing Christianity to hide from the Nazi's atrocities against the Jews in that era. Read more
Published 1 month ago by sam
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved this book so much
Loved this book so much! So sad when it ended and looked for similar stories. Now reading Finding Rebecca and enjoying it as well. Read more
Published 1 month ago by rona kory
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Story
I really enjoyed this book! A very interesting read that didn't take me where I thought it would. I will absolutely be looking for other books by G.S. Johnston.
Published 1 month ago by Janelle Salon
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Read
I enjoyed this book. It really drew me into to the story. The characters were very interesting and held my attention. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Vivian Valdez Pruitte
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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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