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Everything Under by Daisy Johnson
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Everything Under (original 2018; edition 2018)

by Daisy Johnson (Auteur)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4162245,131 (3.71)31
Gretel, a lexicographer by trade, grew up on a houseboat with her mother, wandering the canals of Oxford and speaking a private language of their own invention. Her mother disappeared when Gretel was a teen, abandoning her to foster care, and Gretel has tried to move on, spending her days updating dictionary entries. When her mother phones, Gretel will have to recover buried memories of her final, fateful winter on the canals. A runaway boy had found community and shelter with them, and all three were haunted by their past and stalked by an ominous creature lurking in the canal that she called the bonak. And now that she's searching for her mother, she'll have to face it.… (more)
Member:Colesa
Title:Everything Under
Authors:Daisy Johnson (Auteur)
Info:Jonathan Cape (2018), Edition: 01, 272 pages
Collections:Your library
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Everything Under by Daisy Johnson (2018)

  1. 00
    The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld (hairball)
    hairball: Both main characters grow up in situations cut off from the mainstream. There’s a resonance between these books, although they’re far from the same.
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» See also 31 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
This one pulled me in from the start. Three components to the same story, the present, the near past, and the far past. There are a few key hints at the beginning, but until it all comes together, I forgot I had read them. It is a great retelling of a Greek tragedy. ( )
  LDVoorberg | Nov 22, 2020 |
A great retelling of the Greek myth, but not an easy read. It took me a while to get the idea, and I still have the feeling I might have missed something. Whenever the going got tough, her prose pulled me through. I found her style beautiful and very poetic. ( )
  Cuchulainn | Jun 7, 2020 |
Daisy Johnson’s intricate, dreamlike Booker Prize-shortlisted debut novel is a journey into a surreal fictional landscape that plays fast and loose with chronology, perception and memory. The story focuses on an unconventional and turbulent mother-daughter relationship. Gretel was raised by her mother, Sarah, on a boat moored on a canal somewhere in rural England. Gretel’s childhood and education are eccentric and unstructured. She does not attend school. The information she accumulates while growing up blends together elements from her mother’s bizarre stories and superstitions, encyclopedia articles, and whatever knowledge she gleans from exploration of the natural world in the vicinity of the boat: her observations of the weather, the changing seasons and the riverside flora and fauna. But the eccentricities do not end there. The two live in virtual isolation—the community of canal dwellers is largely cut off from external influences—a state of isolation that Sarah purposely sought after fleeing a more conventional life as wife and mother. Moreover, mother and daughter communicate in an idiosyncratic vernacular augmented and enhanced by invented words and phrases and outlandish beliefs and notions. For one: Gretel’s mother is obsessed with a river creature she calls The Bonak. At one point while Gretel was still a child, their isolation was interrupted by Marcus, a runaway who happens upon the boat and, once a degree of trust is established, moves in with them for a period of several weeks. Sarah and Gretel each build their own relationship with Marcus: Gretel’s structured around games and a regular show-and-tell, while Sarah’s develops into a kind of brooding, teasing fascination. Then, abruptly, Marcus is no longer with them. When Gretel is in her teens, they leave the boat and after a period of wandering take up residence in a room over a stable, where Sarah earns her keep performing menial chores. Then Sarah is gone, abandoning her daughter and leaving Gretel to be cared for by strangers. The novel begins with Gretel as an adult, working as a lexicographer. She is searching for her mother, an obsessive “hunt” that contributes a framework to the novel. However, the book is not structured in a linear fashion. Instead, it skips freely across several timelines, switching points of view in the process. A few chapters are narrated from the perspective of Marcus and chronicle the enigmatic forces that drive his decision to leave his own home and embark on a rambling journey through the countryside. The story that Johnson weaves is a cryptic amalgam of interconnected elements that, by the end, converge to form a more or less cohesive narrative. One anchoring element is the Oedipus myth on which the novel is loosely based. Everything Under is undeniably engaging and often spellbinding. Daisy Johnson writes magical, lyrical prose that is exacting and precise, but also frequently erupts into passages of bracing weirdness and stunning flights of fancy. There is a dark undercurrent running throughout the book that mirrors the river’s murky depths, and readers will find that aspects of the story border on fantasy. Hovering over everything is Sarah’s unnamed mental illness, which causes abrupt and unpredictable mood swings, makes her impulsive and wary of human interaction, and has convinced her that she should cloak her daughter in a world of her own invention. There is brilliance in these pages, but an obvious caveat is that the novel makes enormous demands on the reader and occasionally seems to revel in its own obscurity, to the detriment of the story it is trying to tell. Still, on the evidence presented in Everything Under, Daisy Johnson is without a doubt a writer worth watching whose accomplishments at an early stage of her career are already significant. ( )
  icolford | Apr 13, 2020 |
It took me forever to get into and get through this one. In part I think the characters didn't really engage me, and in part I figured out which Greek myth this was based on in the first few chapters (Oedipus Rex) and was just waiting for the plot to hit the major points, rather than reading to find out what happens next. It's a shame as I was really looking forward to reading this one, and I'm clearly in the minority given all the rave reviews, but this one left me cold. ( )
  andrea_mcd | Mar 10, 2020 |
Forever grateful to past me for picking this up at the library. One of the best reads of the year. ( )
  staleness | Jan 2, 2020 |
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For my grandmothers, Christine and Cedar
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The places we are born come back.
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Gretel, a lexicographer by trade, grew up on a houseboat with her mother, wandering the canals of Oxford and speaking a private language of their own invention. Her mother disappeared when Gretel was a teen, abandoning her to foster care, and Gretel has tried to move on, spending her days updating dictionary entries. When her mother phones, Gretel will have to recover buried memories of her final, fateful winter on the canals. A runaway boy had found community and shelter with them, and all three were haunted by their past and stalked by an ominous creature lurking in the canal that she called the bonak. And now that she's searching for her mother, she'll have to face it.

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