Cover Image: Unsettled Ground

Unsettled Ground

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Member Reviews

I’m always drawn to books that feature eccentric characters and this one really delivered in that aspect. The protagonists in this novel live on the fringes of society, or more accurately on the dust held by the fringes of society.

Most of us cannot fathom their isolation and their abject poverty, but both of these things are not of great importance to either of them. The twin brother and sister are fifty-one years old at the time of their mother’s death. This event changes their isolated and sheltered world to such an extent both physically and emotionally, that they flounder – and understandably so.

When they are made homeless, Julius seeks independence and a ‘life’ outside their insular world, while Jeanie wants only to preserve their former existence. When the late Dot’s secrets are revealed, Jeanie is most profoundly impacted.

This is definitely not an uplifting story. It is a tale of hardship, of poverty, injustice, and perseverance. Of living an austere life; of opportunities missed, and of pride. The tale is told with vivid imagery, a few of which scenes will remain with me for a very long time.

To say I enjoyed this book seems wrong because of the many distressing circumstances described within it. Yet to say that I did not enjoy it would be a lie. The writing was astounding and I was completely immersed in Jeanie’s story and had great sympathy for her plight. So yes, I would definitely recommend this novel, though you might have to be in the right frame of mind to do so.
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This is a very sad, unsettling novel. Following the story of Jeanie and Julius, 51 year old twins who live together with their mother in rural England, the novel's plot takes a sharp turn when Dot, their mother, suddenly dies, leaving the twins to fend for themselves for the first time in their lives. It is beautifully written, but in learning about their mother's secrets, the novel becomes very dark and unsettling. It is a very aptly titled book.
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Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller was a slow burn mystery about 51 year old brother & sister duo living off the land with their mother in a run down cottage in rural UK. They live off the profits of selling vegetables from their garden and odd jobs taken on and that suits them just fine.

The story starts off with their mother, Dot suddenly passing one morning and the siblings Jeanie & Julius aren’t sure what they should do without her direction. Lacking social skills, literacy, and money, Jeanie navigates the funeral process, while Julius pours himself into odd jobs and drinking. They’re both trying to come to terms with their mother’s death and find out many secrets their mother kept from them over the years. 

Their lives start to unravel while they’re trying to find their footing on their own and end up dealing with a ton of people who are either trying to take advantage of their situation in the aftermath of losing their last living parent or have a few family friends who offer to help in any way they can without making it seem like charity.

It really was a beautifully written mystery that leaves the reader in suspense a few times. It was good but I wouldn’t personally read it again or rush to grab another of the author’s books unless it was recommended to me. But if the synopsis seems of interest then you’ll probably enjoy it if you’re into slow burn mysteries that are more character driven than plot driven.

Thank you to NetGalley for the digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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This gem surprised me.   When I began reading, I thought, "What am I reading?"  I try not to read what books are going to be about or jacket copy before I start so I really didn't have a clue what it was going to be:  thriller?  Lit fic?  Mystery?  Ghost story?   What it was was something completely different, more of a character study that slowly unfurled like something unexpectedly beautiful from something bleak.   The strange, slightly flat tone worked for me for some reason, I found myself looking forward to this as a bedtime read, like a quiet piece of music.   The end offers hope and felt uplifting and subtle and I'll read anything and everything Claire Fuller writes from now on.
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Jeanie and Julius are 51-year-old twins whose sheltered, codependent lives are turned upside down when their mother suddenly dies. I really loved the unsettling tone in the first half of the book and thought Jeanie’s point-of-view was very compelling, although the big ‘secrets’ of the story were easy enough to guess. I was surprised by the ending though, which is always a good thing! 

The thing I struggled with the most was the setting of the book. I kept forgetting that this story is set in modern day, so every time a cellphone or something current like Brexit were mentioned, I was surprised. It read like a story set several decades earlier – maybe in the 1950 or 60s – and I’m not sure why, but it was jarring.
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Absolutely loved this. It is a heartbreaking, yet beautifully written story. I’ll be thinking about these characters for a very long time.
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There has been some buzz for Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller after it was longlisted and now shortlisted for the 2021 Women’s prize. The story’s premise sounded interesting and unique, and curiosity got to me, and I had to read it!

Unsettled Ground explores codependency, hardship and survival with an unusual family. 51-year-old twins Jeanie and Julius and their mother, Dot live pretty much off the grid, in isolation, poverty, and are dependent on each other to survive. After Dot dies, secrets and lies start too unravel along with life as Jeanie and Julius know it.

I found the premise intriguing, and I loved the themes of codependency and isolation. There is enough suspense to story that should have added elements of an engaging mystery; however, it loses steam with the story’s pacing. Interesting and intriguing harsh truths and then brutal realities engulf the twins setting a dark, claustrophobic tone to the story with a constant feeling of doom. There were plenty of questions I needed the answers to that kept me clicking the pages looking for answers. The pace is slow as the secrets and lies are revealed, and when they are, I became frustrated with the characters’ lack of action to them. I wanted the story to move forward instead of staying in that cloud of doom for so long. I liked the secrets and lies, and how they all came together and that made the story for me. The story took a dark turn near the end, and I felt cheated out of some light to the story and growth to the characters, and I didn’t get the ending I was hoping for.
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I had to take my time reading this because Fuller does such an excellent job conveying the dread of the character's predicament that I found myself feeling sickly anxious if I stuck with it for too long a stretch.
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This novel grabbed my interest from its first sentences, describing a snowfall in luminous prose, and wouldn’t let go.  

Jeanie and Julius Seeder are 51-year-old fraternal twins living with their mother Dot in a dilapidated cottage in rural England.  Though isolated and poor, they are content.  Then Dot dies suddenly, and the outside world intrudes and threatens their sanctuary.  They must learn to adapt and fend for themselves as they quickly learn that the world Dot had constructed for them was built on deception and manipulation.

Just as the ground unsettles beneath the twins’ lives, the reader will find the book unsettling.  The twins are hampered in their ability to deal with the outside world.  Julius suffers from travel sickness so being in a motorized vehicle is untenable; with limited education, he can take only menial jobs and only those which he can reach by bicycle.  Because of a heart condition which left her frail, Jeanie attended school only sporadically and is functionally illiterate.  They are vulnerable, and there are people who move in quickly to exploit their vulnerability.  As they are repeatedly victimized, I felt like I was reading a Thomas Hardy novel.  

This is very much a novel of character.  Though both Julius and Jeanie’s perspectives are included, Jeanie is more of a focus.  Because of her educational limitations and her lack of contact with the outside world, she lacks some basic life skills needed in the modern world and is uncomfortable outside her home:  Jeanie “craves home, quiet and security.”   Nonetheless, she engages with others as she must and fights to maintain her dignity and become more independent.  Though trapped by circumstances, she doesn’t let herself succumb to the increasingly hopeless situation in which she finds herself and shows herself to be both strong and brave.  The reader cannot but cheer for Jeanie even while sometimes being frustrated with her actions.  

Another character who is developed is Dot.  From the beginning it is made clear that she has secrets; as she suffers a stroke in the first chapter, she thinks about “that unmentionable-at-home man” who occasionally sleeps with her and her last thought is about “the biggest lie of all.”  The reader will certainly guess many of her secrets before her children learn them, but it’s not the nature of the secrets but her motivation that is of most interest.  I found myself increasingly angry with Dot for limiting her children’s opportunities.  Her conversation with Jeanie about the risks of pregnancy for someone with her heart condition and her casual mentioning to her son that she saw a friend of his kissing a man outside the pub do not portray Dot in a positive light.  A book club could have a great discussion about Dot’s choices:  Does her love for her children excuse her manipulation?  Does her pride keep her from taking actions that would have made her children’s lives easier?  What role do selfishness and a fear of loneliness play in her behaviour?  Was Dot the good woman everyone says she was?

Music is a very important source of comfort to both Julius and Jeanie and serves as a bond between them.  Dot also played an instrument and the twins fondly remember the home concerts with the three of them.  It becomes obvious that Jeanie is especially musically talented, and it is in this area that we see the harm that can be done by parents.

Suspense is built slowly but there is little doubt that something terrible is going to happen.  For example, the visitors to the cottage and spinney become more and more threatening, and Jeanie and Julius’ situation becomes more and more dire.  And then when a confrontation does happen, what will the long-term outcome be?

The book is slow-paced and generally bleak and oppressive, but the development of characters is exceptional and, fortunately, the ending offers some hope.  The novel certainly inspires one to think of the long-term impact of secrets and lies.
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Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller. Thanks to House of Anansi Press @houseofanansi and Net Galley @netgalley for letting me read a digital copy of this novel. 🌼💚
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Jeanie and Julius are 51-year-old twins who live with their mother in a rural community. When their mother passes away, their already precarious financial situation becomes even more dire. Their mother's secrets come back to haunt them and Jeanie and Julius find themselves struggling to keep their cottage.
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To be quite honest, while I certainly felt a lot of empathy for the two main characters, this novel just didn't really grab me. I was eager to read the book because I loved Fuller's novel "Swimming Lessons." Fuller's writing is certainly lush and atmospheric - I've heard it compared to du Maurier's writing, and I think the comparison is accurate. However, I found this book took me a long time to get through because I just didn't feel overly compelled to keep reading.
I'm probably in the minority though, as I've seen lots of positive reviews of this book - If you've read Unsettled Ground I'd love to hear what you thought of it!
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#houseofanansipress #houseofanansi #NetGalley #unsettledground #bookpost #bookreview #2021reads #2021books #bookstagram #booksofinstagram
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Claire Fuller is a successful British writer whose past books are "Swimming Lessons", "Our Endless Numbered Days" and "Bitter Orange".  This new release has been shortlisted for the UK's Women's Prize For Fiction.  In this novel we meet Jeanie, a 51-year-old woman who lives in poverty with her twin brother Julius and their mom, Dot.  While they do not have much, they have each other, a wonderful garden and their love of music.  When tragedy happens, Jeanie finds out a lot of what she believed was false and the limited sense of security she had before is gone.  This beautifully written story is about resilience, survival, family and hope.  It is a wonderful recommendation for customers looking for literary fiction and are okay with a story that is somewhat dark.
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Claire Fuller writes a book that is rich in atmosphere and is a very character driven novel. It is about 51 year old twins Jeanie and Julius who were still living at home with their mother taking care of their rented cottage and earning a modest living. When Dot suddenly passes away the twins are left fighting to survive. This is a story about family secrets, poverty, resilience and hope for a future. This book was incredibly sad in parts as the twins face the harsh reality of poverty. Jeanie and Julius were often times too proud to ask for help. Jeanie especially did not want to abandon her comfortable simple life even when it appeared her brother was ready for something new. I found it a really interesting book. The last 100 pages were hard to put down as the twins are really put to the test after a horrible accident again shifts their lives. Definitely one to pick up if you enjoy more poetic writing and a strong examination of characters.

Thanks to @houseofanansi and @netgalley for the review copy. Unsettled Ground comes out on May 18th.
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Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller 

This author’s writing always leaves me feeling somewhat astounded; prose elegant and timeless, descriptions so apt I can’t help but write them down. There’s a line involving a snail and a beer glass that could not be more perfect; if this wasn’t an e-arc I read I’d put the quote here! Please everyone read it so we can commiserate about this wonderfully written novel. 

It’s about 51 year-old twins Jeanie and Julius who never left home, living with their mother Dot in a dilapidated cottage on isolated farm land, growing produce. They have little materially. When elderly Dot dies unexpectedly their lives are in upheaval. There’s change abounding and the twins are grappling with their new “normal”. There’s a mystery, decades old secrets, and fantastically real characters living on the margins of today’s society. 

Seeing through Jeanie’s eyes is illuminating journey through someone experiencing poverty and homelessness in the midst of an idyllic town and picturesque farmland. When her comfortable and simple life is turned inside out she faces many challenges but also shows resilience and growth. The story alternates POV and keeps the plot moving, and shows us Julius’s  struggles with wanting to be there for his twin but feeling the pull of modern society and independence so differently from Jeanie. 

A five star atmospheric and thoughtful novel for me. Interesting characters that could walk right off the page in a middle-age near coming-of-age story, with a slowly unraveling mystery, tension and after a weird plot conclusion, a bit of hope.  

Thank you so much to Netgalley and to House of Anansi Press for a free e-arc of this fantastic novel in exchange for an honest review. I loved this one.
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Jeanie and Julius Seeder are 51 year old twins. They both still live with their widowed mother Dot. Their father died in a farming accident when the twins were around thirteen years old. Suddenly Dot dies leaving the brother and sister ill equipped to manage on their own.
Jeanine helped her mother with the garden and the selling of the produce. After a bout of rheumatic fever as a youngster Jeanie’s health has been an ongoing issue. Julius does not have steady employment and takes on day jobs when he can get them.
Now that Dot has passed numerous issues come to light. Under the impression they were living rent free in the cottage a demand is made for overdue rent. The electricity has been cut off. Decisions about the funeral and burial must be made and there is no money to be found just mounting debt.
Unsettled Ground is a sad  story. There were times when I thought things couldn’t get any worse for Jeanie and Julius but they did. The descriptions of the settings and character development were excellent. Despite all the trials that the sister and brother face the story is not without hope. 
Unsettled Ground was not a easy read but it was a worthwhile read. The story is powerful and memorable. I am still thinking about Jeanie and Julius and probably will be for quite some time.
Thank you to House of Anansi Press for providing an advanced digital edition to read and review.
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When you begin this book you feel that there are development delays with Julius and Jeannie, as the story unfolds you discover the origins of this at the same time as Jeannie and Julius.  Who was their Mother? What was she up to? And why all the lies?  As the story progresses Jeannie becomes the woman she should have been allowed to be years before. This is a worthy contender for The Woman's Prize.
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I've got that bubbly, happy feeling that happens when I find a fantastic new-to-me author!

Claire Fuller is a genius with words and the character Jeanie from this book is one of the truest, realest POVs I've read.

𝘜𝘯𝘴𝘦𝘵𝘵𝘭𝘦𝘥 𝘎𝘳𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘥 tells the story of 51 year old twins Jeanie and Julius, who live in an old cottage in the country with their mother.
They're dirt poor and removed from society but when their mom dies they must learn to adapt and fend for themselves.

It's very character driven and atmospheric.
The plot moves at a kinda slow pace but it's an amazing story. Sometimes inspiring and sometimes upsetting. 4.5⭐

𝙅𝙚𝙖𝙣𝙞𝙚 𝙞𝙨 𝙛𝙤𝙡𝙡𝙤𝙬𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙝𝙚𝙧 𝙩𝙝𝙤𝙪𝙜𝙝𝙩𝙨 𝙣𝙤𝙬, 𝙤𝙣𝙚 𝙖𝙛𝙩𝙚𝙧 𝙩𝙝𝙚 𝙣𝙚𝙭𝙩, 𝙚𝙖𝙘𝙝 𝙢𝙖𝙠𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙖 𝙥𝙖𝙩𝙝 𝙞𝙣 𝙛𝙧𝙤𝙣𝙩 𝙤𝙛 𝙝𝙚𝙧 : 𝙖 𝙡𝙞𝙣𝙚 𝙤𝙛 𝙨𝙩𝙚𝙥𝙥𝙞𝙣𝙜 𝙨𝙩𝙤𝙣𝙚𝙨 𝙨𝙝𝙚 𝙝𝙖𝙨 𝙣𝙚𝙫𝙚𝙧 𝙬𝙖𝙡𝙠𝙚𝙙 𝙖𝙘𝙧𝙤𝙨𝙨 𝙗𝙚𝙛𝙤𝙧𝙚.

𝘔𝘺 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘯𝘬𝘴 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘱𝘶𝘣𝘭𝘪𝘴𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘕𝘦𝘵𝘎𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘦𝘺 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘦𝘢𝘳𝘭𝘺 𝘤𝘰𝘱𝘺.
𝘙𝘦𝘭𝘦𝘢𝘴𝘦 𝘥𝘢𝘵𝘦 𝘔𝘢𝘺 18
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This is a slow, quiet story. The rich details of the writing pulled me in. Jeanie and her twin brother, Julius, are middle aged, unemployed, and now that their mother has died, apparently homeless. They must figure out how to manage without her.

The characters are both frustrating and captivating. I found myself cringing at the choices they made, and at the same time, rooting for them to succeed. They seem very old-fashioned to me, maybe because of the rural setting and poverty. Their lives and the world they live in are depicted so vividly, they feel like real people to me.

This is my second Claire Fuller novel, and I can’t wait to read more of her work. She’s the kind of writer who makes you forget you are reading a book because you are so engaged in the story.
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A sad book about secrets and not allowing your children to make a life for themselves. Life was tough in rural Ireland especially when your spouse died young. However , Dot the mother of twins Jeanie and Julius never rebounded and dragged her children into a life of  poverty , deceit and unhappiness. The despair and gloom of this book is overwhelming . Two bright musical children became  old fougies who never experienced life beyond their doorstep. So many missed opportunities .
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Good book! Wasn't sure the characters were going to grow on me as I didn't find them very likable,  but once we got into the story and knew them better it worked. It especially helped as they learned the truth about things that happened to them as children. This would be an excellent choice for book club as it has alot to be broken down and discussed. I will recommend it!
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