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Tuesday, 8 May 2018


About Underwater Breathing

On Yorkshire's gradually-crumbling mud cliffs sits an Edwardian seaside house. In the bathroom, Jacob and Ella hide from their parents' passionate arguments by playing the 'Underwater Breathing' game - until the day Jacob wakes to find his mother and sister gone.

Years later, the sea's creeping closer, his father is losing touch with reality and Jacob is trapped in his past. Then, Ella's sudden reappearance forces him to confront his fractured childhood. As the truth about their parents emerges, it's clear that Jacob's time hiding beneath the water is coming to an end.

My review of Underwater Breathing

Underwater Breathing is such a beautiful book. It has a haunting melody that runs throughout, from the very beginning when we meet Jacob and Ella, right until the exquisite ending. The storytelling draws you in, as do these very different characters. All who have their own unique story to tell.

This is a stunning book. The fragility of this family unit is  echoed in the fragility of the house, sat on top of a crumbling cliff. At the heart of this home is Jacob.   A young man, a teacher, and carer for his ageing and alcoholic father. Jacob has many demons to face, including those of never having come to terms with the disappearance of his baby sister, Ella, two decades  previously. His life is dominated by thoughts of his sister, of where she is, if she is still alive. Even when she returns to the family home, there are so many unanswered questions, with Jacob having to unearth the past to make sense of his future.

Throughout the narrative we go backwards and forwards in time. We meet Jacob as a fifteen-year-old, when Ella was only six. We are introduced to the underwater breathing game, and the interaction between the two of them is with heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time. In fact, the bond that the two share is incredibly special, as it is born out of Jacob's need to protect his sister from his arguing parents and alcoholic father.

There are serious issues that are dealt with in this book. Those of loneliness, and what it means to enforce your own loneliness. Family, and the many different types of family unit are touched upon, as well as the responsibility that adult children face in caring for an ageing and ill parent. All of these complex issues and intertwined and made into something quite haunting that deeply touches the soul. On paper it would be easy to assume that this type of story would be somewhat dark and macabre, but there is a surprising lightness and joy to this tale of a lost sibling and a family that is falling apart at the seams. It is a haunting and dazzling read. This book really will stay with me for a long time.

With thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for the digital review copy.

Underwater Breathing was published by Legend Press on 3rd May. It can be found on Amazon here.

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