Underwater by Elizabeth Diamond

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Underwater by Elizabeth Diamond

Buy Underwater by Elizabeth Diamond at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Women's Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Trish Simpson-Davis
Reviewed by Trish Simpson-Davis
Summary: When a girl's family is shattered, the consequences change the woman she becomes. Jane's secretive personality leads to disconnection and unhappiness until she comes to terms with the past. An interesting rather than enjoyable read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 400 Date: May 2009
Publisher: Picador
ISBN: 978-0330453691

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Underwater is a good title, redolent of water as a metaphor for life. Elizabeth Diamond sustains the image throughout with strong settings: brackish Fenland waterways, the salty breeze of Cornwall; the roll of waves on a Scottish beach. Water can be dangerous and each location turns out to be hazardous in its own way, to family members. This book, though, is more docu-soap than thriller.

The events could happen. We hear about miscarriages of justice depressingly regularly and goodness, there are numerous examples in literature. Elizabeth Diamond is interested more in the consequences of a traumatic event for everyone in the family, even a child on the periphery. The child, Jane, is now a woman in her fifties; the consequences have extended through her lifespan.

Jane feels the immediate consequences when she is sent to live with her aunt and uncle, where she manages to return to normality only by hiding the past from herself and her new friends. The family conspiracy of silence becomes a way of being. Even when she marries Paul, she remains as uncommunicative as a closed-up clam. Jane's personality is changed inexorably by those childhood events: look, says the author, this is what happens if you disconnect from emotion, if you keep secrets hidden away inside yourself.

I admire Elizabeth Diamond for taking on some big issues in this book. However, I felt the plot was occasionally as stereotyped as an academic case study. Maybe it was the third person viewpoint, which sometimes drifted into the creepy, quasi-respectful voiceover of a telly domestic documentary.

Jane is a carefully built character who convinces me with her reactions to life's cruel blows. Like her, traumatised people often experience bad luck trailing after them like a fetter round their ankles. While I sympathized with her plight, I didn't particularly like her, mainly because she expected Paul and her next door neighbour to jump round her, rather than making much effort herself.

The other members of the family are strong characters, too. By the end of the book, I was really interested in the mother and regretted that I hadn't heard her point of view at first hand. I was less convinced by Paul and Bob. Jane's nice but goody-goody husband is almost androgynous, if he hadn't found someone else, he might have disappeared into his own shadow. Bob, the neighbour, is a rather unsubtle father figure.

I'm not sure enjoyment is the right description for such meaty stuff, but this story does have an aftertaste of richness and I was left with plenty to mull over.

The Bookbag would like to thank the publisher for sending this book.

If you enjoyed this book, Nell Leyshon's admirable and recently-published novel Devotion is similarly set within a family in crisis.

Buy Underwater by Elizabeth Diamond at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Underwater by Elizabeth Diamond at Amazon.co.uk

Buy Underwater by Elizabeth Diamond at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Underwater by Elizabeth Diamond at Amazon.com.


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