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Beneath The Surface by Fiona Neill - Review

Sunday, August 4, 2019

I requested this book on Netgalley because the blurb really appealed to me, so thank you to Michael Joseph/Penguin UK for the chance to read this book. Beneath the Surface was published in July so is available to buy now.

I added this book on Goodreads and Goodreads helpfully reminded me that I read The Betrayals by Fiona Neil back in the autumn of 2017. I didn't remember the book and I didn't review it here, but when I looked closer I did remember it. It's a strange tale of grown up siblings whose parents are divorced and their dad's partner is their mum's ex best-friend. This book is kind of similar in tone, so I think I would read something else by Fiona Neill and expect something similar.

In this book there's a family living in the Fens near Cambridge. Due to their spiralling debt, they've had to move from the city centre to a new build in the Fens, but the house has got damp and everything is coated in a layer of red dust. Patrick, the father, has ancestral ties to the area, and to the people who drained the Fens. He is unable to deal with his debt and has to ask his brother - a flashy record producer - for loans.

He is married to Grace, who isn't from the area but who keeps her past secret. She is an over-protective and somewhat overbearing mother, but throughout the book we see exactly why that is.

Their daughters are Lilly and Mia. Lilly is nearly eighteen, and about to go into her last year of school. Mia is ten, and is badly bullied at her primary school and only has one friend, a Traveller boy called Tas. At the beginning of the book, the sisters are looking for something in the garage while their parents argue with Patrick's brother Rob and his wife Ana outside in the garden. Mia discovers a pregnancy test, with a symbol on it showing that whoever used it was pregnant. Lilly tells Mia that it's hers, and Mia gets fixated on the idea of her sister being pregnant and having had an abortion.

Lilly has been seeing a boy called Cormack over the summer, only things have gone wrong between them. Grace doesn't know anything about her daughter's relationship but becomes obsessed with finding out everything about it. Mia is an odd child (she reads as autistic to me, but it's not mentioned within the book) and is being bullied. She is also at odds with her teacher, Miss Swain. I really felt for her when she lashes out at her bullies and ends up getting into trouble - this happened to me when I was being badly bullied in junior school too. It isn't her fault she's bullied! I wanted an adult to stand up for her.

I feel like not a lot actually happens in this book and yet lots does happen, but a lot of it happens in flashback and retelling. I really liked it; I liked the bits from the points of view of both Lilly and Mia. It's hard to write a child's point of view in an adult book, but I feel like it was done beautifully here. I'm giving this a well deserved eight out of ten.

I was given a free copy of this ebook for review purposes, but was not otherwise compensated for this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

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