He never intended to be a jailer …
After years of travelling, responsible to no-one but himself, Steve has resolved to settle down. He gets a job, buys a house and persuades Liesel to move in with him.
Life’s perfect, until Liesel delivers her ultimatum: if he won’t agree to start a family, she’ll have to leave. He can’t bear to lose her, but how can he face the prospect of fatherhood when he has no idea what being a father means? If he could somehow make her stay, he wouldn’t have to choose … and it would be a shame not to make use of the cellar.
Will this be the solution to his problems, or the catalyst for his own unravelling?
When I was offered an advanced copy of 'Underneath' to read and review, I was immediately struck by the book's gorgeous cover and the intriguing blurb, and I couldn't wait to start reading it.
Having spent two decades travelling round the world, Steve decides to return to the UK and settle down. He meets Liesel at work and the two start a relationship. Liesel makes it clear from the beginning that she's not the maternal type and so kids were not an option. Steve couldn't be happier with this arrangement and their relationship progresses quite normally. They buy a house which includes a cellar Steve intends to decorate and put to good use.
However it is evident that both Liesel and Steve are damaged individuals, having had unhappy childhoods which have marked their lives. We have frequent flashbacks of Steve's childhood when he was bullied and had his life dominated by his twin elder sisters.
One day out of the blue Liesel tells Steve that she changed her mind about kids, she wants to become a mother. Steve is taken by surprise by this but he decides he wouldn't budge. When Liesel gives him an ultimatum by which he has to decide if he wants to build a family with her or not, or she would leave, Steve decides to take matters into his own hands...
Okay, this is difficult, so please bear with me. Unfortunately, as much as I wanted to enjoy this book, I ended up actually hating almost everything about it. First of all, the general feeling and atmosphere of the story is very dull and depressing. The overall plot pace is slow and lacking any exciting OMG moments, cliffhangers or mind-blowing twists. The few twists I came across were actually quite confusing.
Rather than being divided into individual chapters, the book is split into six long parts, and this is another thing that frustrated me. The story continuously jumps back and forth in time, and with no proper interruption between different timelines (just a double line spacing) I found this quite confusing.
This is the first book I've ever read where I practically detested every single character. I can't say there was at least one whom I cared for or related to and found them all boring and hateful. Okay, Steve had a tough childhood, so that's a given he would be affected, but the way he behaves, I thought he's just nuts thinking only with what he has between his legs most of the time. Liesel is a woman that is happy to have an abortion without a second thought one day, then desperate to have a baby, the next.
I was about to give up halfway through the book as the story was going nowhere, but at that point I came across a 'twist', so I decided to persevere. Not that it did much good. The last part was even more confusing than the rest of the book. I didn't understand the last part of the book at all, so not quite sure what happens at the end.
I'm sorry about this, but although having such a great premise, it's evident that this book was not for me. I hate writing negative book reviews and thankfully I rarely need to do it, however as a reviewer I have to give my opinion and be honest and frank. But maybe it's just me being dumb or losing the whole plot. I'm sure other readers will enjoy it much more than I did.
With my apologies and thanks to the author for an ARC of this book which I voluntarily accepted to read and review.
Anne Goodwin loves fiction for the freedom to contradict herself and has been scribbling stories ever since she could hold a pencil. During her career as an NHS clinical psychologist her focus was on helping other people tell their neglected stories to themselves. Now that her short fiction publication count has overtaken her age, her ambition is to write and publish enough novels to match her shoe size. Her debut novel, Sugar and Snails, was published in July 2015 by Inspired Quill and shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Her second novel, Underneath, is published in May 2017.
Visit her website and blog at http://annegoodwin.weebly.com/