Below Deck – Book Review
Author: Sophie Hardcastle
Genre: Literary, trauma, consent
My rating: ★★★★★
Release Date: Published 3rd March, 2020 by Allen & Unwin
Format: Paperback, 296 pages
What did I think?
Hardcastle’s Below Deck has gone straight to my all-time favourites shelf. I’d be lying, though, if I didn’t say that it was painful to read. At times this novel raw, dark, grim, and it deals with issues of consent. So it’s a difficult book, yet it’s important.
I felt shades of Normal People near the start – and I wasn’t too fond of that novel. But shades was all there was. This book brings so much more. The main character, Olivia (Oli), is very likeable. Below Deck offers the reader much more hope than Normal People did, too. I feel like Normal People witnessed while Below Deck helps you tease out your understanding and then offers you support.
The writer has captured struggles that many people who’ve experienced trauma will relate to (even if their situation was not identical to Oli’s). These struggles aren’t easy to put into words or cope with. They can remain confusing, truths can remain elusive. There is a nasty reality captured on the pages of Below Deck. That reality isn’t just about one persons trauma and/or the person who caused it. It’s deeper than that, worse that that, because if you can’t fully understand yourself and what happened to you – how do you relate to others? Can others really see and know you?
Now please don’t get the idea that this book is all pain and gloom. It may trigger some readers, however there is also such beauty and light in it. Friendships (including some wonderful intergenerational ones), nature, the ocean, independence and adventure, healthy dependence, vulnerability, kindnesses, love.
On a personal note…Hardcastle gave me the Antarctic AND sailing. I love snow and ocean themes. It’s like she tailored this book to me, which made it even more amazing (and easier to cope with). Also, Oli has synesthesia, where objects and experiences are linked to certain colours. I found this added nicely to the plot.
This book is definitely a favourite because it’s so eloquent. Perfect. It’s a favourite because I feel its truth. Though I don’t know if I could ever re-read it, I will darn-well tell other people about it.
Many thanks to Allen and Unwin for my copy of the book in return for an honest review, and to the author, Sarah Hardcastle, for putting herself out there and capturing this so awesomely.