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Unsettled Ground

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What if the life you have always known is taken from you in an instant? What would you do to get it back? Twins Jeanie and Julius have always been different from other people. At 51 years old, they still live with their mother, Dot, in rural isolation and poverty. Their rented cottage is simultaneously their armour against the world and their sanctuary. Inside its walls What if the life you have always known is taken from you in an instant? What would you do to get it back? Twins Jeanie and Julius have always been different from other people. At 51 years old, they still live with their mother, Dot, in rural isolation and poverty. Their rented cottage is simultaneously their armour against the world and their sanctuary. Inside its walls they make music, in its garden they grow (and sometimes kill) everything they need for sustenance. But when Dot dies suddenly, threats to their livelihood start raining down. At risk of losing everything, Jeanie and her brother must fight to survive in an increasingly dangerous world as their mother's secrets unfold, putting everything they thought they knew about their lives at stake. This is a thrilling novel of resilience and hope, of love and survival, that explores with dazzling emotional power how the truths closest to us are often hardest to see. _


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What if the life you have always known is taken from you in an instant? What would you do to get it back? Twins Jeanie and Julius have always been different from other people. At 51 years old, they still live with their mother, Dot, in rural isolation and poverty. Their rented cottage is simultaneously their armour against the world and their sanctuary. Inside its walls What if the life you have always known is taken from you in an instant? What would you do to get it back? Twins Jeanie and Julius have always been different from other people. At 51 years old, they still live with their mother, Dot, in rural isolation and poverty. Their rented cottage is simultaneously their armour against the world and their sanctuary. Inside its walls they make music, in its garden they grow (and sometimes kill) everything they need for sustenance. But when Dot dies suddenly, threats to their livelihood start raining down. At risk of losing everything, Jeanie and her brother must fight to survive in an increasingly dangerous world as their mother's secrets unfold, putting everything they thought they knew about their lives at stake. This is a thrilling novel of resilience and hope, of love and survival, that explores with dazzling emotional power how the truths closest to us are often hardest to see. _

30 review for Unsettled Ground

  1. 4 out of 5

    Ceecee

    When fifty one year old twins Jeanie and Julius Seeder’s mother Dot collapses and dies of a stroke they could not have envisaged how their lives would change so dramatically and how many secrets her passing would unlock. I absolutely love the way that Claire Fuller writes. She has a wonderful gift with words and her beautifully rich descriptions can make even the mundane spring to life before you. Her characters are so well developed and you watch in fascination as the twins relationship changes When fifty one year old twins Jeanie and Julius Seeder’s mother Dot collapses and dies of a stroke they could not have envisaged how their lives would change so dramatically and how many secrets her passing would unlock. I absolutely love the way that Claire Fuller writes. She has a wonderful gift with words and her beautifully rich descriptions can make even the mundane spring to life before you. Her characters are so well developed and you watch in fascination as the twins relationship changes as do their interactions with others as their lives spiral downwards. I love Julius name - a little stroke of genius especially as his story unfolds. This is a tale that contains harshness especially surviving poverty, being further kicked when you are down with some characters encircling the pair like ravenous wolves which makes you feel anger on their behalf. Life sometimes just isn’t fair. Dot’s secrets emerge a piece at a time, the story slowly builds and builds and there are several obstacles along the journey to a more optimistic end. There are some touches of dark humour, on occasions it’s creepy and disturbing and at others it’s intriguing as you try to solve the puzzles Dot leaves behind. I love the musical elements especially the folk songs and Maude the dog is fantastic! Overall, once again the author enthrals with the power of her storytelling and the excellent quality of her writing in this character driven tale. I loved it. With thanks to NetGalley and Penguin/Fig Tree for the much appreciated arc for an honest review.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    “The music flows out of the windows one wavering note at a time, achingly sweet, a pear drop caught in her throat”. Claire Fuller....magnum opus ......from the UK....just can’t write a bad book. I loved her past three books: “Our Endless Days” “Swimming Lessons” “Bitter Orange”.... AND now..... “Unsettled Ground” In “Unsettled Ground”, .....with a landscape that speaks to readers .... Claire Fuller unearths the soil on which an old cottage barely stands. We feel - visualize- smell - every ounce of natur “The music flows out of the windows one wavering note at a time, achingly sweet, a pear drop caught in her throat”. Claire Fuller....magnum opus ......from the UK....just can’t write a bad book. I loved her past three books: “Our Endless Days” “Swimming Lessons” “Bitter Orange”.... AND now..... “Unsettled Ground” In “Unsettled Ground”, .....with a landscape that speaks to readers .... Claire Fuller unearths the soil on which an old cottage barely stands. We feel - visualize- smell - every ounce of nature’s beauty.... which transcends time and geographic location. Effortlessly Claire strings us along with her gorgeous prose, describing vital details while infusing emotion into her words. A terrific novel with two memorable characters: Twins - 51 year olds - Jeanie and Julius...who lived with their mother, Dot, until she dies early in this story. Along with the supporting characters - some good - some bad - add much depth— Claire has a great understanding of all her characters—- and through them, one of the great treasures is the wisdom we experience through them — throughout this novel. It’s way too tempting to share the plot...but I went in completely blind...and cherished every word...every thought...every emotion.... So.... I’m holding back saying too much.... but.... I highly recommend this book to all readers who appreciate primordial power and simplicity....and engrossing literary storytelling. This is what you need to know.... It’s filled with fine writing...[in the rural isolation in the English countryside... It has flair, style, beauty, poverty, drama-to-small mystery, secrets, sibling closeness and strife, neighbors, friends, questionable friends, struggles, heartbreak, success..... Unknown motives, deceit, loyalty, desires, exploitation, guilt, morals, ....and a little craziness. The tension never stops moving forward.... Absolutely wonderful!

  3. 5 out of 5

    Gumble's Yard

    A remarkable story of rural 21st century marginalisation; repercussions of life changing events; resilience to trauma; and recalibration of identity and relationships. This is the first book I have read by Claire Fuller, despite it being her fourth novel, but I was aware of her work given that her first book won the prestigious Desmond Elliott Prize for debut fiction in 2015, defeating the phenomenon that was “Elizabeth is Missing” (to give an example of the ability of the prize to identify brill A remarkable story of rural 21st century marginalisation; repercussions of life changing events; resilience to trauma; and recalibration of identity and relationships. This is the first book I have read by Claire Fuller, despite it being her fourth novel, but I was aware of her work given that her first book won the prestigious Desmond Elliott Prize for debut fiction in 2015, defeating the phenomenon that was “Elizabeth is Missing” (to give an example of the ability of the prize to identify brilliant talent – the other recent winners are Eimear McBride, Lisa McInerney, Francis Spufford, Preti Taneja, Claire Adam and Derek Owusu – if you are looking for a list of authors whose careers you should follow that I would suggest would make a very good start); her second novel shortlisted for the Encore prize for second novels (winners of that prize run by the Royal Society of Literature include Anne Enright, Ali Smith, Sally Rooney and a host of other Booker listed authors). I am not sure I have read a book which had such unsettling and unfortunate resonances for me - a story of two 51 year old twins whose mother suffers a stroke, and with much of the opening plot of the book about discovering the costs of funerals – which uncannily sums up the start and end of the difficult last twelve months of my own life. The book is set in a rural part of present day Wiltshire - Jeanie and Julius Seeder (no one is sure if the name was an elaborate joke by their father) despite their age, live with their mother Dot in a small cottage which still has an outside toilet. Dot and Jeanie grow vegetables which they sell both at the bottom of their garden in an honest box and more recently to an upmarket deli in the local village. Julius does a variety of casual labouring jobs for cash. Their ability to survive is helped by a long arrangement with the local farmer and landowner Rawson that they can rent the cottage for free in perpetuity – something which dates back to their father’s death 40 year’s previously, decapitated while driving Rawson’s new tractor (after an accident the twins believe was due to faulty bolts fitted by Rawson). The family’s life is circumscribed: Jeanie by a childhood heart condition and by a lac of desire for things other women seem to her to seek for – fashion, sex, money; Julius by the after effects of the accident which mean he suffers severe travel sickness and the unspoken requirement to care for his sister; the whole family by a fierce independence, self-sufficiency, and bond over folk music and their shared beliefs about who they are and their family story. When at the book’s start the twins find their mother dead from what later turns out to be a stroke they are forced to: engage with the other people (including Rawson and Dot’s best friend Bridget); engage with the outside world (for example the need to register the death and incur the costs of a funeral); confront their lack of any money; deal with those who quickly move to exploit their vulnerability; come to terms with discrepancies between what they have always believed about themselves and their history and what seems to be the emerging reality of their situation; and to reset their own relationship. To say much more would be to spoil the story – a relatively simple but powerful tale of rural poverty, of those marginalized from 21st Century English society (both exploited by the establishment and ignored by progressives) and at heart a tale of resilience when everything you know about yourself changes and of a recalibration of beliefs, lifestyle and relationships in the face of the repercussions of a life changing traumatic event. My thanks to Penguin General UK for an ARC via NetGalley

  4. 4 out of 5

    Resh (The Book Satchel)

    This isn't a premise that I am usually excited by. But I picked it up anyway because Claire Fuller is an incredible writer and I had high hopes of enjoying her words. I wasn't disappointed. Fuller has once again proved how beautifully she writes and how she pays attention to measured sentences and fine details in scenes. The story follows fifty one year old twins Jeanie and Julius who live with their mother, Dot. Their rented cottage isolates them from the world, a world steeped in rural poverty. This isn't a premise that I am usually excited by. But I picked it up anyway because Claire Fuller is an incredible writer and I had high hopes of enjoying her words. I wasn't disappointed. Fuller has once again proved how beautifully she writes and how she pays attention to measured sentences and fine details in scenes. The story follows fifty one year old twins Jeanie and Julius who live with their mother, Dot. Their rented cottage isolates them from the world, a world steeped in rural poverty. They grow veg in the garden and sell them and Julius does small jobs around the village to sustain them financially. But when Dot meets with a sudden death, their livelihood and arrangement is brought to a standstill. I was thoroughly invested in the characters. I felt worried knowing there are two middle aged adults out there with nothing to their name except three pounds in a stocking. I was anxious, screaming in my head "how did this happen, what will they do?" Fuller approaches their trials with patience and compassion. The twins worry about a decent burial, Jeanie wonders how she can secure a job to help them both, they meet other people outside their isolated life — like Dot's friend Bridget , the person Julius has hooked up a few times with — and they are unsure how to accommodate them in their lives. The twins have their own limitations. Julius can't travel in a closed vehicle, Jeanie can't read. The book is sad but more than sadness, Fuller makes the reader go deep into the thoughts of Jeanie and Julius, making us worry whether they will manage the bare minimum. There are heartfelt scenes — like deciding whether a wake is needed, Jeanie using a public lavatory and wondering if her hair smells because she has no shampoo, the make-shift toilet arrangements. The book also evokes a familiar sense of earth and the domestic space, two aspects that are repeatedly revisited in the novel. I enjoyed this book Much thanks to the publisher for an e-ARC

  5. 4 out of 5

    Celeste

    Actual rating: 2.5 stars I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher, Tin House, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I really wanted to like this. I was in the mood for a quiet story, but this was just too quiet. The writing was nice, but not incredible enough to carry a story lacking in both plot and characterization. I just wanted to shake everyone, sit them all down in a circle, and not let anyone move until they had hashed out all of their considerable issues. While Actual rating: 2.5 stars I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher, Tin House, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I really wanted to like this. I was in the mood for a quiet story, but this was just too quiet. The writing was nice, but not incredible enough to carry a story lacking in both plot and characterization. I just wanted to shake everyone, sit them all down in a circle, and not let anyone move until they had hashed out all of their considerable issues. While I had issues with the novel, I will say that I found the premise unique. There aren’t that many adult sibling stories out there, and this one revolves around 51-year-old fraternal twins who have always lived with their mother. The tale opens on the death of that mother, leaving Julius and Jeanie, the aforementioned twins, alone for the first time in their lives and at a loss as to how to handle a funeral or the outstanding debts their didn’t even know about. Julius and Jeanie are both potentially fascinating characters who, in my opinion, never lived up to that potential. While there was some growth in the end, we don’t actually witness it, and I didn’t find it believable considering the trajectory these characters were on before said growth. I found myself constantly reminded of the movie Nell, and I’m not sure that’s a compliment. One thing I loved was that the biggest bond between these siblings was their music. That’s something my brother and I share, as well, and it’s a really special bond to have. I honestly wish it would have played a bigger role in the narrative. While I can see why others love and will love this novel, it just didn’t work for me. If there had been a little more plot, or a little more character development, I think I could’ve at least liked it very much. But the combination of those lacks and the abrupt ending left me dissatisfied.

  6. 4 out of 5

    SueLucie

    I have read a couple of Claire Fuller’s novels so I know how good she is at creating atmosphere and tension, and this latest story is no exception. It was hard to imagine at first how the twins could have reached the age of 51, still living at home with their mother in rural squalor with no real income. Mobile phones and other modern technology kept reminding me that the setting was not the first half of the 20th century but much more recent, though I guess such pockets of rural isolation still I have read a couple of Claire Fuller’s novels so I know how good she is at creating atmosphere and tension, and this latest story is no exception. It was hard to imagine at first how the twins could have reached the age of 51, still living at home with their mother in rural squalor with no real income. Mobile phones and other modern technology kept reminding me that the setting was not the first half of the 20th century but much more recent, though I guess such pockets of rural isolation still exist today. When their mother dies suddenly without the opportunity to set her affairs in order, the twins’ lack of money and the skills to navigate the world on their own send them spiralling into chaos. The tension mounts up, as do the debts and the cruelties of a harsh world. Quite why and how they ended up in this predicament and whether they are going to be able to get out of it is for us to discover over the course of the rest of the book. I found their story moving, despite some scarcely credible plot elements, and the characters engaging, especially Jeanie, hampered at every turn by her lack of education and experience yet fighting for her dignity and self-sufficiency. I was worried for her all the way through. Some lovely descriptive writing (of not always very beautiful settings). Recommended. With thanks to Penguin, Fig Tree via NetGalley for the opportunity to read an ARC.

  7. 5 out of 5

    switterbug (Betsey)

    If you are looking for an ardent literary suspense/mystery novel such as Fuller’s Swimming Lessons and her last book, Bitter Orange, her newest is not in that same vein, although it is equally powerful. The author has written a raw, elegiac character study that is affecting, memorable, and rare. Fuller impressed me with her sense of place in Bitter, the rundown mansion where you can smell the rotting fruit in the garden. In Unsettled Ground, the lush backdrop is a humble cottage on the fringes a If you are looking for an ardent literary suspense/mystery novel such as Fuller’s Swimming Lessons and her last book, Bitter Orange, her newest is not in that same vein, although it is equally powerful. The author has written a raw, elegiac character study that is affecting, memorable, and rare. Fuller impressed me with her sense of place in Bitter, the rundown mansion where you can smell the rotting fruit in the garden. In Unsettled Ground, the lush backdrop is a humble cottage on the fringes and surrounded by the natural world, which has always been familiar and welcoming to 51 year-old twins Julius and Jeanie. The setting, like in Bitter, is almost a character itself. Prepare for an unhurried tale of subdued emotions, gradual reveals, and a mixture of implied and lashing violence. The twins have always lived in the same rural place with their mother, Dot, on the outskirts of English society, literally and figuratively, a marginalized family constrained by pecuniary circumstances—and yet, they have managed to carve out a life that is independent, resilient, and content on their terms. Moreover, Jeanie plays guitar and Julius plays the fiddle, so there is often music in the abode. They tend the garden and grow their own vegetables (no coincidence that their last name is Seeder), which they sell from their garden and to an upscale deli. Julius also works odd jobs for straight cash. The Seeder's father died years ago, which will be poignantly revealed in stages, for us and, to an extent, the twins. Since his death, the landlord, Rawson, has allowed them to stay at the cottage rent-free. In the opening pages, in surreal prose, Dot dies suddenly from a stroke, another trauma for Julius and Jeanie to bear. Rawson’s wife, a bitter and haughty woman, informs them they will now pay rent. Exacerbating this, when they discover the cost of the funeral, the outside world infringes on their peace. Fuller keenly exposes the shame placed upon them, and the steps they are forced to take to bury their mother. Jeanie prefers her interdependence and solitude with Julius and Dot and their dog. However, Julius is increasingly drawn to the outside world and romance, which threatens the close bond and interior life they have led, and which Jeanie strives to keep. Both have fragilities that are well described. Yet their strength, music, and imagination have always defended them, and they prevailed in their daily routine. But now that Dot is dead, the center is disturbed, and the exterior becomes interior. Their resiliency is challenged, imperiled. Folks have different coping skills, and Julius and Jeanie are no exception. What Fuller does is embed you with these disenfranchised characters, so that each insult to their wellbeing, every wound, becomes re-bruised. The song says, “The first cut is the deepest,” but the twins know that every subsequent laceration is a sharp refrain. What will sustain here--that’s the overriding question. Their effort to reach beyond their usual borders creates synergy with the reader; you will deeply feel what’s at stake. And Fuller’s prose will transport you to painfully sequestered emotional places, like this quake from Jeanie: “The creature is in her throat. If she opens her mouth wide enough and screams, it will come sliding out, newborn and slippery, ready to fight.” This is for literature lovers who are prepared for a quietly disturbing tale. Plenty of unsettled ground. Fuller is a master of language and voice. Thank you to Nanci at Tin House for sending me an ARC.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sid Nuncius

    I have enjoyed Claire Fuller’s work, especially Our Endless Numbered Days, which I thought was excellent. Unsettled Ground didn’t quite do it for me, I’m afraid. There is a fine sense of place and Fuller paints her usual penetrating and humane portraits of her main characters, in this case a pair of twins living on the margins of rural society whose world is shaken when their mother dies. It is in many ways a very fine portrait of hardship, resilience, loss and grief and also a very good picture I have enjoyed Claire Fuller’s work, especially Our Endless Numbered Days, which I thought was excellent. Unsettled Ground didn’t quite do it for me, I’m afraid. There is a fine sense of place and Fuller paints her usual penetrating and humane portraits of her main characters, in this case a pair of twins living on the margins of rural society whose world is shaken when their mother dies. It is in many ways a very fine portrait of hardship, resilience, loss and grief and also a very good picture of what life is like for those who are well out of society’s mainstream. Although this was very well done (of course it is – Fuller is brilliant at it) as a whole I found the book rather a slog to get through. It’s quite bleak and oppressive much of the time and I could have done with a little more leaven of engaging events, or even a bit of humour. I suspect that that the problem may be at least partly to do with me, in that a somewhat oppressive story based around two people having a tough time isn’t really what I need as we start our third, prolonged, lockdown. Others got on much better with it and there’s no doubt that Claire Fuller is a fine writer so don’t be put off by me, but I can only give this a qualified recommendation. (My thanks to Penguin Books for an ARC via NetGalley.)

  9. 4 out of 5

    Sue Frances

    Unsettled Ground is one of my favourite books this year. I absolutely loved it. The story of 51 year old twins Jeanie and Julius broke my heart. I wanted to look after them and give Jeanie a big hug. Claire Fullers writing is so beautiful and real I felt like I knew these people. This is my favourite book by Claire Fuller to date. I highly recommend it. Thanks to NetGalley and the author for the opportunity to read this amazing book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ruth Brookes

    Sometimes, with the very best novels, I find the characters hang around afterwards, vying for my attention. This was absolutely the case with Unsettled Ground, Claire Fuller’s forthcoming novel of family, secrets and trials on the margins of modern life. All this week Jeanie and Julius have lingered in my head. Their story is one of adult twins still living with their mother Dot, and working the land surrounding the small rural cottage which is home. Dot’s death is the catalyst for the unravelli Sometimes, with the very best novels, I find the characters hang around afterwards, vying for my attention. This was absolutely the case with Unsettled Ground, Claire Fuller’s forthcoming novel of family, secrets and trials on the margins of modern life. All this week Jeanie and Julius have lingered in my head. Their story is one of adult twins still living with their mother Dot, and working the land surrounding the small rural cottage which is home. Dot’s death is the catalyst for the unravelling of an insular existence, their memories and unspoken assumptions. The unfolding events a quicksand of betrayal, debt and duty. What stood out for me was Jeanie’s shame at her lack of learning, yet a fierce pride and refusal to accept any help. There’s also a very real sense of mutual frustration, resentment and affection binding the siblings to one another, and the land, alongside their memories of playing music together over the years. The mounting tension as their lives come undone kept me utterly captivated. I loved this quiet, nuanced novel; full of heart it’s perfect for those who like their stories grounded in people, place and truth. A real delight.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Dawn Drenning

    Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC of this book. Two siblings who lived a very sheltered,poor upbringing trying to deal with rough situations and what life throws at them as adults. No story better explains how our parents can actually harm us by keeping us too close and with the "discretions" that they keep from us.Claire is such a brilliant writer and I knew I would enjoy this book, and I sure wasn't disappointed. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC of this book. Two siblings who lived a very sheltered,poor upbringing trying to deal with rough situations and what life throws at them as adults. No story better explains how our parents can actually harm us by keeping us too close and with the "discretions" that they keep from us.Claire is such a brilliant writer and I knew I would enjoy this book, and I sure wasn't disappointed.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Caroline Cox

    My first finished book of 2021! I got an advanced reader copy of Unsettled Ground through Netgalley. This book features a Bitchy Literary Caroline™ – is there a conspiracy amongst authors to have every single character named Caroline be an icy monster? Please advise. This specific Bitchy Literary Caroline™ is the wife of the landlord of the cottage where Jeanie and Julius, 51-year-old twins live with their mother, Dot, who dies suddenly. Jeanie and Julius rely heavily on each other and do not hav My first finished book of 2021! I got an advanced reader copy of Unsettled Ground through Netgalley. This book features a Bitchy Literary Caroline™ – is there a conspiracy amongst authors to have every single character named Caroline be an icy monster? Please advise. This specific Bitchy Literary Caroline™ is the wife of the landlord of the cottage where Jeanie and Julius, 51-year-old twins live with their mother, Dot, who dies suddenly. Jeanie and Julius rely heavily on each other and do not have other friends or relations in their social circle, so they do not have a support network to help them through their grief. In addition, the twins find that Dot has lied to them over the years, so their grief and isolation is compounded by a reevaluation of their lives and themselves. The entire tone of this book is bleak. The twins cannot seem to catch a break and their life essentially falls apart in the wake of their mother's passing. Jeanie and Julius' relationship becomes strained because of their reduced circumstances and need to become a more cohesive team to both survive and come to terms with the lies about themselves and each other they had come to believe. Because the story was so bleak, I found it difficult to "like" this book, but I would still recommend it because it was powerful. Jeanie's character arc, especially, was memorable and impactful, as she makes strides to become more independent and to know herself better. Three solid stars.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Rachel Dawn Drenning

    Brilliant.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Pamela Scott

    REVIEW TO FOLLOW WHEN I TAKE PART IN THE BLOG TOUR ON 20 MARCH

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kaye Fraser

    How does a 51 year old cope when they begin to gradually discover that all the truths they had held for a lifetime are not what they seemed? Twins Jeanie and Julius are left to discover the answer to that when their Mother dies suddenly and everything they have known is turned upside down. This story is eloquently written, and keeps the reader absolutely involved from beginning to end with a plot involving love, deception, inadequacy, totally abhorrent violence and a heartrending understanding o How does a 51 year old cope when they begin to gradually discover that all the truths they had held for a lifetime are not what they seemed? Twins Jeanie and Julius are left to discover the answer to that when their Mother dies suddenly and everything they have known is turned upside down. This story is eloquently written, and keeps the reader absolutely involved from beginning to end with a plot involving love, deception, inadequacy, totally abhorrent violence and a heartrending understanding of how the modern world can be a terrifying place for those who who have never had an opportunity to learn to understand it. This is such a beautiful book that it will stay in my mind for a long time.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

    I think what I loved most about this book, is that I felt I was in completely safe hands with the author. The style is brilliant - gently, poetically descriptive; tender and heartwarming by turns, shocking and disgusting at other times. The twins are such fascinating characters, especially Jeanie. I had to just stay in bed and read solidly for 2 hours to finish the last half of the book, I was so gripped by Jeanie's story. I had a similar feeling earlier this year reading Hamnet by Maggie O'Farr I think what I loved most about this book, is that I felt I was in completely safe hands with the author. The style is brilliant - gently, poetically descriptive; tender and heartwarming by turns, shocking and disgusting at other times. The twins are such fascinating characters, especially Jeanie. I had to just stay in bed and read solidly for 2 hours to finish the last half of the book, I was so gripped by Jeanie's story. I had a similar feeling earlier this year reading Hamnet by Maggie O'Farrell, and this is another wonderfully woven book. I really enjoyed all the varied characters, and Bridget was a particular favourite by the end of the story. It is quite harrowing to read at times, they face such poverty and degradation, but the story was ultimately uplifting. You feel sorry for Jeanie to begin with, and as well as being slightly disgusted by her at times you pity her - still living with her mother & brother at 52, unable to read, desperately poor, and so naive in the ways of the world. And yet, she is fiercely independent and proud, and incredibly brave and strong. I just loved her.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Lou

    There is so much to admire in Claire Fuller's latest novel, it's hard to know where to start. ''Unsettled Ground' is the story of 51 year old twins, Julius and Jeanie, who live an isolated, rural, hand-to-mouth existence with their mother, Dot. The novel opens with Dot's death, and the twins' struggles to give her a decent burial with no money. As the story progresses, and the twins' financial situation becomes ever more precarious,, secrets that their mother has been keeping all their lives beg There is so much to admire in Claire Fuller's latest novel, it's hard to know where to start. ''Unsettled Ground' is the story of 51 year old twins, Julius and Jeanie, who live an isolated, rural, hand-to-mouth existence with their mother, Dot. The novel opens with Dot's death, and the twins' struggles to give her a decent burial with no money. As the story progresses, and the twins' financial situation becomes ever more precarious,, secrets that their mother has been keeping all their lives begin to emerge. 'Unsettled Ground' had me gripped from page one, and not just because of the intriguing storyline. Fuller's prose is a work of genius, she conjures characters so adeptly, creating such a vivid, heartbreaking story of accidental homelessness, extreme poverty and the far reaching consequences of adult illiteracy. The scenes in which Jeanie, one of the twins, struggles to buy food in a supermarket, and is forced at one point to spend the night in a public lavatory, were truly moving. Fuller's story brought home to me how much I take for granted every day, how life is so much easier if you can read. But this isn't a depressing novel at all, rather it highlights the power of the human spirit to keep fighting in the face of adversity, and the enduring strength of love. I was really looking forward to reading Claire Fuller's latest offering, knowing I was in for a treat, and 'Unsettled Ground' didn't disappoint.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lucille

    Unsettled Ground is the tale of twins Julius and Jeanie who live with their mother Dot in a small cottage after their father's tragic death many years previously. After Dot herself dies their lives fall apart as the truth about her unravels while Jeanie finds herself having to survive in abject poverty while taking care of her feckless brother. Claire Fuller writes books that move me. Her style is similar to that of Anne Tyler, with a slow pace which nevertheless keeps me turning the page. Can't Unsettled Ground is the tale of twins Julius and Jeanie who live with their mother Dot in a small cottage after their father's tragic death many years previously. After Dot herself dies their lives fall apart as the truth about her unravels while Jeanie finds herself having to survive in abject poverty while taking care of her feckless brother. Claire Fuller writes books that move me. Her style is similar to that of Anne Tyler, with a slow pace which nevertheless keeps me turning the page. Can't ask for anything more. Many thanks to NetGalley and Fig Tree for the opportunity to read and review this exceptional book.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sue Frances

    5+ stars. Loved this! Unsettled Ground is one of my favourite books this year. I absolutely loved it. The story of 51 year old twins Jeanie and Julius broke my heart. I wanted to look after them and give Jeanie a big hug. Claire Fullers writing is so beautiful and real I felt like I knew these people. This is my favourite book by Claire Fuller to date. I highly recommend it.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kath

    I loved Swimming Lessons, Bitter Orange, and Our Endless Numbered Days, so I was very excited to get my hands on this book. And I have to say that I wasn't disappointed! Jeanie and Julius are twins. At the ripe old age of 51, they still live with mother Dot. Until that is, the day that Jeanie finds her mother dead. Obviously they have been sheltered all their lives and the loss of their mother is more than the pain of losing a loved one as they are soon to find as they start to try and fend for t I loved Swimming Lessons, Bitter Orange, and Our Endless Numbered Days, so I was very excited to get my hands on this book. And I have to say that I wasn't disappointed! Jeanie and Julius are twins. At the ripe old age of 51, they still live with mother Dot. Until that is, the day that Jeanie finds her mother dead. Obviously they have been sheltered all their lives and the loss of their mother is more than the pain of losing a loved one as they are soon to find as they start to try and fend for themselves. Starting with their rented cottage which they have made their own over the many years they have lived there. With the veggie patch and chickens in the garden this might just give them the means to survive but then that too is threatened and they find themselves fighting against everything just to survive. Oh my days. I so felt for the twins, Jeanie especially, as I got to know them. My heart went out to them as I learned more and more about what was happening to them and about them. Both in the present and the past as Dot's secrets started to come to light. I lost track of the number of times my heart was in my mouth as they were victimised and persecuted. All for just being who they are. Tragic in places and so very emotional. But also with the underlying feeling of hope being just around the corner. But what form it takes...? But the story isn't everything for this book. The way the story is delivered really brings it and the characters to life. And in this, the author really excels. Her language is powerful, the descriptions really do make you believe you are there as a spectator, witnessing first hand in the now, instead of being a distant observer after the fact. Oh and there are some funny bits in the book too which prevent it from getting too dark. I was quite thankful for these as it could have got a bit too dark and dismal. All in all, another winner from an author firmly on my watch list. Really looking forward to seeing what she has in store for next time. My thanks go to the Publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read this book.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Liz

    Please visit my book blog https://cavebookreviews.blogspot.com/. I never expected to read Claire Fuller's novel from start to finish in one sitting. But the inimitable writer grabbed me and wouldn't let go until late last night. Set outside a village an hour or so away from Oxford, a family of three, Dot, the mom, and her twins, Jeanie and Julius, eke out an existence in a ramshackle cottage. The twins are 51 years old, have always stayed with their mother living an orderly life with nothing goin Please visit my book blog https://cavebookreviews.blogspot.com/. I never expected to read Claire Fuller's novel from start to finish in one sitting. But the inimitable writer grabbed me and wouldn't let go until late last night. Set outside a village an hour or so away from Oxford, a family of three, Dot, the mom, and her twins, Jeanie and Julius, eke out an existence in a ramshackle cottage. The twins are 51 years old, have always stayed with their mother living an orderly life with nothing going to waste. Dot and Jeanie keep a large garden and sell what they can at a fancy grocer in the village. Julius picks up odd jobs wherever he can find them. They all play music and give joy to whoever gets to hear them. I wouldn't say that the novel was a mystery page-turner. The characters seem like people that I have known sometime in my life. I just had to see their saga through to some resolution, dire or blessed. Claire Fuller has given them meaning, beautifully and thoughtfully, for all the people in this world who live on next to nothing and refuse what they consider charity. Today's sorry world has turned its back on so many people who do not fit into the technological revolution or the way money is made in real estate, building tract houses wherever there is an empty meadow. This book is for them. Perhaps siblings aren't meant to live together for their entire lives, but it is what made life bearable for Jeanie and Julius. I loved this novel, a favorite of the year. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for this ARC.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Clare

    I make no secret of the fact that I’m a huge Claire Fuller fan, and Unsettled Ground gave me no reason at all to think otherwise - it’s a beautiful book. The characters Jeanie and Julius are vulnerable people who just need someone to guide them when their mother dies, even though they are fiercely independent. This is a family that has always lived on the edge of their community - both their actual geographical location and socially. They live hand to mouth, and when Doris their mother dies, the I make no secret of the fact that I’m a huge Claire Fuller fan, and Unsettled Ground gave me no reason at all to think otherwise - it’s a beautiful book. The characters Jeanie and Julius are vulnerable people who just need someone to guide them when their mother dies, even though they are fiercely independent. This is a family that has always lived on the edge of their community - both their actual geographical location and socially. They live hand to mouth, and when Doris their mother dies, the twins have to go without food at times, when it transpires that Doris has left them with no money and debts. The cost of her funeral is the least of their problems (and they overcome that problem reasonably easily anyway). There is a feeling that the twins are trapped by circumstance and by each other. Jeanie has never recovered from a childhood illness and is illiterate, and Julius is not only expected to look after her, but is trapped in their local area because he has severe travel sickness linked to their fathers terrible death. Their one comfort is their joint love of folk music (I wish I could have actually listened to these songs - I shall have to google them, and I hope they really exist!). Claire Fullers use of language makes the everyday seem more lifelike in her books. I read most, if not all, of this with my heart in my mouth. How could I not? Jeanie and Julius are people who are shunned by society, taken advantage of and treated terribly. I feel I can’t leave this quite like this though: there are the good people, the ones that help. I don’t want to spoil the story, so I’ll stop here, but what I will say is that this is another gorgeously written novel by Claire Fuller, and you should most definitely read it! Many thanks to the publisher for providing me with an e-copy of this book through NetGalley to read and review.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Hannah Zimmerman

    Let me preface this review with this: I love Claire Fuller, and she continues to be one of my favorite authors. Her technical writing is, as many have said, beautiful and masterful, and her character development is on point. She truly is a gifted writer, and Our Endless Numbered Days continues to be one of my favorite books of all time. However, I could not get into Unsettled Ground. I wanted so hard to love it like I've loved her others, and I kept waiting for that moment where I would say "Yes! Let me preface this review with this: I love Claire Fuller, and she continues to be one of my favorite authors. Her technical writing is, as many have said, beautiful and masterful, and her character development is on point. She truly is a gifted writer, and Our Endless Numbered Days continues to be one of my favorite books of all time. However, I could not get into Unsettled Ground. I wanted so hard to love it like I've loved her others, and I kept waiting for that moment where I would say "Yes! This is what I was waiting for!" but for me, it never came. I don't know if the story was too purely sad instead of dark, or if it was too predictable, or just because this particular story didn't interest me. The whole book I just continued to feel such a deep pity for Jeanie (the main character) instead of the usual mix of complex emotions I usually feel towards Fuller's characters. That being said, I definitely wouldn't say that I regret reading Unsettled Ground, and I still found Fuller's skill and voice within the story. There is a reason people have been giving this book high praise. It just wasn't my favorite.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Steve T

    Claire Fuller has written a novel that is both charming and sinister in equal measure. When Dot dies her children, fifty one year old twins Jeanie and Julius, who still live at home, find that nothing is quite as it seems and soon find they are facing homelessness and poverty. Jeanie can not read or write as she was kept off school for long periods of time and has always worked on the farm with her mother, and is ill equipped to face the modern world. The twins fragility and hopeless situation ma Claire Fuller has written a novel that is both charming and sinister in equal measure. When Dot dies her children, fifty one year old twins Jeanie and Julius, who still live at home, find that nothing is quite as it seems and soon find they are facing homelessness and poverty. Jeanie can not read or write as she was kept off school for long periods of time and has always worked on the farm with her mother, and is ill equipped to face the modern world. The twins fragility and hopeless situation makes this a desperately sad novel at times but there is some respite thanks to the help they receive from neighbours and friends. I thoroughly enjoyed this beautifully written eloquent novel.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Verity Halliday

    I enjoyed the story of fifty-something twins Jeanie and Julius who are plunged into poverty and uncertainty when their secretive mother Dot dies suddenly. Their predicament and their struggle for survival is very believable. I felt strongly for Jeanie: I wanted to whisk her off to the Citizens Advice Bureau to get the benefits and money issues sorted and was worried and frustrated when their situation worsened during the course of the book. Jeanie and Julius' story is always gripping, often heart I enjoyed the story of fifty-something twins Jeanie and Julius who are plunged into poverty and uncertainty when their secretive mother Dot dies suddenly. Their predicament and their struggle for survival is very believable. I felt strongly for Jeanie: I wanted to whisk her off to the Citizens Advice Bureau to get the benefits and money issues sorted and was worried and frustrated when their situation worsened during the course of the book. Jeanie and Julius' story is always gripping, often heartbreaking and had a bittersweet resolution. A recommended read. Thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for providing a review copy in exchange for honest feedback.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Abbie

    Bleak but beautifully written, a stunning novel. Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for the ARC.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Charlotte Burt

    Jeanie and Julius are two very familiar characters, especially to anybody who has spent time living in the small towns and villages of rural England. They are happy to live a bucolic existence farming the smallholding they live on with their elderly mother. And then the mother dies and their world is turned upside-down. This is a book about grief, loss, poverty, homelessness and how little we really know our family, especially our parents.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ormondebooks

    Unsettled Ground is a beautiful story about family, and how we choose to deceive those closest to us. Set against a backdrop of rural isolation, Jeanie & Julius Seeder, 51 year old twins, struggle to cope with life emotionally and financially following the death of their mother, Dot, a woman who had secrets. Jeanie and Julius have lived a sheltered life in a small cottage totally at one with nature. They survive on selling produce from their vegetable garden and Julius’ occasional work with loca Unsettled Ground is a beautiful story about family, and how we choose to deceive those closest to us. Set against a backdrop of rural isolation, Jeanie & Julius Seeder, 51 year old twins, struggle to cope with life emotionally and financially following the death of their mother, Dot, a woman who had secrets. Jeanie and Julius have lived a sheltered life in a small cottage totally at one with nature. They survive on selling produce from their vegetable garden and Julius’ occasional work with local farmers. Jeanie cannot read or write and struggles in a digital society where she has neither a mobile phone or a bank account. Through the unpicking of Dots secrets, Jeanie and Julius eventually make peace with their mothers decision to change the narrative of their past. ⁣ ⁣ I really enjoyed this book, especially the connection between Jeanie and the natural world. At times, Jeanie’s pride and refusal to accept help made me want to shake her but I couldn’t help but like her character . Lovers of Sarah Moss’ novels will appreciate this read. 4 stars from me!⁣ ⁣ Many thanks to the author @clairefuller, @netgalley and @PenguinUKBook for this ARC in return for my honest review.

  29. 4 out of 5

    SharleneH

    As with other Fuller books this one is full of atmosphere and tension. As hard as it is to imagine teaching 51yrs old and still living at home, this is the reality for twins Jeanie and Julius. When their mother becomes ill they could not have envisaged how their lives would change. The story is moving even in unpleasant circumstances and the characters engaging. A heart warming read. Thank you Penguin and Netgalley for this copy to read and review

  30. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    Twins Jeanie and Julius's hitherto precarious existence topples when their mother dies, leaving them to fend for themselves for the first time in 51 years. Fuller returns to the theme of living on society's periphery, and delves into a life built on unreliable foundations. Her descriptions of the natural world are an achingly beautiful counterpoint to the encroaching human menace. As devastating as some of the plot resolutions are, they seem a little too tidy. Overall, I was disappointed, having r Twins Jeanie and Julius's hitherto precarious existence topples when their mother dies, leaving them to fend for themselves for the first time in 51 years. Fuller returns to the theme of living on society's periphery, and delves into a life built on unreliable foundations. Her descriptions of the natural world are an achingly beautiful counterpoint to the encroaching human menace. As devastating as some of the plot resolutions are, they seem a little too tidy. Overall, I was disappointed, having read and enjoyed two other titles by Fuller. With this in mind I might revisit Unsettled Ground at some point in the future. My thanks to NetGalley and Penguin General UK for the ARC.

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