Tag Archives: claire fuller

Unsettled Ground

Family drama novel about parents, poverty and isolation

Content warning: themes of control, parental death

I received a copy of this book courtesy of the publisher. This is actually the second book I have read by this author and I was looking forward to it.

Image is of the eBook cover of “Unsettled Ground” by Claire Fuller. The cover is a collection of colour flowers and fruit against a black background that on closer inspection appear to be wilting and rotting.

“Unsettled Ground” by Claire Fuller is a novel about twins Jeanie and Julius who unusually, at age 51, still live at home with their mother Dot in a small rural cottage in England. However when their mother suddenly dies, Dot’s carefully balanced, hand to mouth existence begins to crumble around them. The twins begin to realise just exactly how many secrets their mother was keeping from them, and how much she was keeping them from the rest of the world.

This is a disquieting novel that really resonated with me. When I was 18 years old, I lived in the West Midlands in the UK for about 6 months with relatives in a rural area, and Fuller really captured that village setting perfectly. Fuller unpacks in an incredibly realistic way have unnavigable society is for people who are disadvantaged, and examines in close detail the practicalities of life without access to a car, running water or electricity. I thought that Fuller handled writing about literacy difficulties especially well, and watching the recent TV documentary “Lost for Words” shortly afterwards helped me see just how accurately Fuller captured the stigma around lack of literacy but also the workarounds people develop to get by. The other thing I really liked about this book is the relentlessness of the life administration, even and especially in death, and how Dot doing everything for her children really left them unequipped to cope. Fuller pushes this scenario to its extreme, exploring each individual vulnerability to its limit while still remaining well within the realm of possibility.

While the setup for this book was extremely engaging, I’m not sure that in the end it landed. Fuller tiptoes around Dot’s character, and while I appreciate leaving some things to the imagination, there is never really much speculation about why she limited her children’s interaction with the outside world so much. Throughout the book, Jeanie and Julius learn more about their mother’s personal life through those closest to her, but never really why she had absolute control over the way the home was run and made absolutely no contingency plans whatsoever. Of course I accept that this happens all the time in real life, but in many ways Dot was the most interesting character in the book and we got only the faintest spectre. I also appreciate that people fall between the cracks, and it is hard to know what truly goes on in someone’s home. That being said, none of Dot’s friends seemed to think it was particularly strange that her two adult children in their 50s lived at home with her and had next to no life skills whatsoever.

Fuller proves again that she is a master of exploring the intricate and disturbing minutiae of an isolated life and if the ending is not full of drama, the journey certainly is.

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Filed under Advanced Reading Copies, Book Reviews, eBooks, General Fiction

Our Endless Numbered Days

So I started up a mini-bookclub at work. And by mini, I mean me and one other person. Our first (and so far, only) set book is one that my colleague found on the Richard and Judy reads for Spring 2016. “Our Endless Numbered Days”, the debut novel by Claire Fuller, looked interesting and whimsical, and is also the title of one of my favourite albums by the band Iron & Wine. Also, the cover looked super pretty. We ordered our copies from Fishpond and waited for them to arrive.

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In person, “Our Endless Numbered Days” is a gorgeous book. The cover is all blue and silver with embossing on the title and author’s name. It looks like it should contain a fairy story and belies the much darker tale that lies within. This is a story about an eight year old girl named Peggy who lives with her mother, a famous concert pianist, and her father, who is obsessed with survival in the event of some kind of apocalypse. After a summer of skiving off school and surviving in the backyard in a tent and hunting squirrels, Peggy’s father takes her from their privileged life in the UK to a remote cabin in Europe and tells her that the whole world, including her mother, is gone.

Fuller is a beautiful writer, and while this is a rather slow-paced book that focuses on everyday minutiae, she is extremely skilled at maintaining tension and keeping the reader engaged. This is a story of subtlety, where the sinister and the innocent are intertwined. I wish I could tell you more about this book, actually, but I really don’t want to spoil it for you.

So, if you’re looking for a story that will linger with you for a while, “Our Endless Numbered Days” is your book.

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Filed under Book Reviews, General Fiction, Pretty Books