In Beneath the Surface Fiona Neill really doesn’t do much for Fenland tourism. It is grey and damp and very still. The Vermuyden family have been forced to move out of their beautiful flat in the middle of Cambridge because of some poor financial decisions by Patrick. Their new home is on a brand new estate on some reclaimed marshland out in the Fens. The new house is damp, mould stains the walls and their new start has had a very troubled beginning.
Wife Grace has very fixed ideas on what she thinks she needs to do for a perfect family life. She hasn’t shared with anyone the full details of the horrific childhood that she shared with brother Luca. With no real experience of what a real family life is like she tries to protect her two daughters, Lily and Mia the best that she can.
Lily is one of the golden girls in her A level year. She’s on target to go to Cambridge university, she’s on the school swim team and has a large circle of friends. When she suddenly collapses in the middle of her English class no-one knows what is wrong with her. Grace is blaming the damp and the mould. Her friend’s mother thinks it is a brain injury caused by the proximity of the nearby wind farm.
Ten year old Mia is old before her time and develops some strange and upsetting theories about what has happened in relation to the excavation of a nearby Anglo-Saxon settlement close to the dedicated Traveller’s site.
This is essentially a story of a dysfunctional family and all of their secrets and lies. Patrick and Grace seem to spend most of their time hiding their real feelings from each other. Lily hides her boyfriend, her social life and her worries from her parents and sister. Mia is almost on an Aspergers spectrum, super smart but unable to relate facts to the potential pain that they might be causing. A social misfit at school whose only real friend is a boy from the Traveller’s site. In many ways she is the real highlight of the story, exceptionally bright, cheeky and intensely concerned for her sister and her friend.
For me it didn’t really delve deep enough beneath the surface but it is a good slow burner read that eventually reveals itself to be a little gem.
Supplied by Net Galley and Michael Joseph in exchange for an honest review.
UK Publication Date: July 11 2019. 400 pages.
Prolific reader, enthusiastic theatre and movie-goer and ex-Olivier Awards judge who spent twenty years working in the music industry in London. I love sharing my favourite books with friends - nearly always spoiler-free as I hate reading a synopsis of the whole book in other reviews.