Book review: Deeper Than The Sea by Nelika McDonald

Tuesday, July 18, 2017 Permalink

Deeper Than The Sea by Brisbane-based author Nelika McDonald was a delightful surprise. In fact, I’ve read so many amazing Australian books this year I’m kinda agog – discovering so many new and talented voices across a range of genres.

Book review: Deeper Than The Sea by Nelika McDonaldDeeper than the Sea
by Nelika McDonald
Published by Macmillan Australia
on June 27th 2017
Source: PanMacmillan
Genres: Literary Fiction, Women's Fiction
ISBN: 1743533209
Pages: 320

It's always been just Beth and her mother Theo. Until Beth is sixteen years old, and a stranger arrives in their small coastal town - a stranger with a claim that rips apart all Beth knows.

And what do you do when everything you thought you knew about yourself is based on a lie?

If you tied me down and forced me to describe this book (although I’m not sure why you would!) in one word I was say it’s all about love. In the present we meet Theo and her daughter Beth. Although Beth’s just started acting out a little and attempting to assert her independence, the pair seem to have a close relationship reflecting a mutual respect.

And in snippets from the past we learn about Theo’s history – from her life in England as the youngest sibling in a high achieving and wealthy family, to ditching University to work in a pub and relationship with Australian chef Oliver, to her move to Australia.

In some ways this is a coming-of-age story, which I’d normally suggest is about Beth traversing the gulf from a youthful naivet√© into the disenchantment and cynicism of adulthood. But it’s also an awakening of sorts for Theo who’s buried her past and its secrets in the hope it would somehow go away… or resolve itself. (Which – we learn – is exactly what she did in her relationship with Oliver and then had to live with the consequences.)

McDonald very quickly gets to the point in this novel and the first crisis comes almost immediately after this book starts. McDonald shatters the worlds of Theo and Beth and then cleverly repairs the damage she’s done as she slowly reveals Theo’s story.

This book is quite beautifully written and I was a little surprised I’d not heard of McDonald before as this is her second book. Her understated prose simmers with beautifully poignant subtlety and I found myself often bewitched by sentences, phrasing and thoughts.

It was too much power, being the difference between alone and not. She used to love being Theo’s other person. Now it sometimes made her feel like she couldn’t breathe. p 15

There’s a strong theme around maternal love, of selflessness and selfishness. Readers will also ponder on the ability of relationships (and trust) to withstand secrets and lies, as well as the fact that something good can come out of something very bad.

Deeper Than The Sea by Nelika McDonald was published in Australia by Pan Macmillan and is now available.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes. 


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