Posted 20 hours ago

Deep Down: the 'intimate, emotional and witty' 2023 debut you don't want to miss

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This perceptive account of the undercurrents that shape our family relationships and the ways in which they play out in adulthood had me gripped. She was shortlisted for the Portobello Prize 2017 and shortlisted for the FT/Bodley Head Essay Prize 2018. When their explorations lead them to the infamous Paris catacombs, they will finally be forced to face the secrets lurking in their past that illuminate the questions in their present. Deep Down examines that which we would rather suppress - grief, shame, hurt - with unflinching verve while treading a careful line between finding the absurd in the humane, and the humane in the absurd.

Deep Down is something altogether darker; an examination of the legacy of abuse shot through with sharp wit and compassion. Funny, moving and unexpected, Deep Down is an empathetic and hard-hitting look at both the struggles and the joys of sibling relationships, and the realities of grieving the loss of someone who was already an absence.I found Tom’s story more compelling but maybe that’s just because I love Paris and can’t resist a bit of romance 🤷‍♀️ Together the siblings make for some uncomfortable reading, finding any reason to pick at each other and disagree until it all comes to a head in the catacombs (loved this little sidebar of the story, fascinating! The subterranean climax introduces a note of the uncanny that doesn’t quite convince, and the ending feels unresolved, though perhaps this is in keeping with the idea that the “möbius strip” of complex grief does not allow for tidy closure. There are scenes of ‘goo spattered all over the floor’, interrupted by a policeman ‘wearing a chunky black vest thing’, and dramatic arguments where the most tragic result is a lack of ice creams ‘in the shape of Sonic the Hedgehog’.

As the setting for the climax of Imogen West-Knights’s subtle and compelling debut Deep Down, it is certainly fitting: in the wake of their father William’s death, the siblings begin to explore hidden and submerged memories from their childhood. You can change your choices at any time by visiting Cookie preferences, as described in the Cookie notice. Billie and Tom are not necessarily likeable characters, but as the story progresses with flashbacks to their childhood we start to understand why they’re a bit messed up and have such a tense relationship - they’ve both processed their father’s behaviour in a different way and are therefore handling his loss differently too. They put themselves in an unnecessary situation and it's hard for me to feel for them, for that reason.Even so, they didn't spend that much time together and they were cordial the entire time so it felt like the tension was diluted. To calculate the overall star rating and percentage breakdown by star, we don’t use a simple average.

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