Mr B's review
Mr B’s Christmas Catalogue Review 2018
Gretel is sixteen when her mother abandons her, leaving her with nothing to face the world except an invented language known only by the two of them. When word of her mother’s whereabouts resurfaces, it brings with it many half-formed memories of their life on the river together, of the lonely boy who stayed with them one winter, to tales of a creature lurking in the water and getting ever closer. A new take on a very familiar Sophoclean tragedy, and one exceptionally beautiful piece of writing.
**SHORTLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE 2018**
**A New York Times Notable Book 2018**
‘Daisy Johnson is a new goddamn swaggering monster of fiction.’ Lauren Groff
Words are important to Gretel, always have been. As a child, she lived on a canal boat with her mother, and together they invented a language that was just their own. She hasn’t seen her mother since the age of sixteen, though – almost a lifetime ago – and those memories have faded. Now Gretel works as a lexicographer, updating dictionary entries, which suits her solitary nature.
A phone call from the hospital interrupts Gretel’s isolation and throws up questions from long ago. She begins to remember the private vocabulary of her childhood. She remembers other things, too: the wild years spent on the river; the strange, lonely boy who came to stay on the boat one winter; and the creature in the water – a canal thief? – swimming upstream, getting ever closer. In the end there will be nothing for Gretel to do but go back.
Daisy Johnson’s debut novel turns classical myth on its head and takes readers to a modern-day England unfamiliar to most. As daring as it is moving, Everything Under is a story of family and identity, of fate, language, love and belonging that leaves you unsettled and unstrung.
“A stunning debut novel. Blending a deep understanding of character and storytelling examination… the result reminds me of Iris Murdoch… Johnson’s affinity for the natural world is extraordinary.” — Jeff VanderMeer * Guardian * “Daisy Johnson is a new goddamn swaggering monster of fiction.” * Lauren Groff * “A triumph: a novel that feels inexorable, messy and profound all at once.” — Anna Leszkiewicz * New Statesman * “Imaginative and innovative… there is a spellbinding tension. As the threads move towards a common end, you’re a child who wants to know the magic.” — Jonathan McAloon * Irish Times * “[Daisy Johnson’s] first novel confirms not only her talent, but her ambition… Johnson’s dense, begrimed retelling [of the Oedipus myth] hums with an electricity pylon-charge of danger, and her sentences repeatedly flare with startling, visceral coinages.” * Daily Mail * “Infused with dark fairy tale, Oedipal tragedy and Freudian desire, this is a brambly, atmospheric and immersive tale… Johnson’s [Everything Under] shines in its use of language.” — Ellen Wiles * Times Literary Supplement * “A weird and wonderful revisioning of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex… Johnson writes with a mesmerising blend of the naturalistic and the surreal, spinning physical descriptions of muscular beauty… This is a novel that drives to its tragic outcome with the twisting but unstoppable logic of a river to the sea.” — Rebecca Abrams * Financial Times * “A hybrid of Alexander Trocchi’s 1954 murder-on-a-canal novel Young Adam and Angela Carter at her most witchy and far-out, Everything Under is creative writing of distinction. ” — Ian Thomson * Evening Standard * “A deeply involving, unsettling novel that pulls the reader into a uniquely eerie yet recognisable world.” * Sunday Times * “Johnson excels at making psychic phenomena feel visceral.” * Observer *