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Everything Under

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  1,258 Ratings  ·  256 Reviews
Words are important to Gretel, always have been. As a child, she lived on a canal boat with her mother, and together they invented a language that was just their own. She hasn’t seen her mother since the age of sixteen, though – almost a lifetime ago – and those memories have faded. Now Gretel works as a lexicographer, updating dictionary entries, which suits her solitary ...more
Hardcover, 264 pages
Published July 12th 2018 by Jonathan Cape
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Amalia Gavea
‘’The places we are born come back.’’

Sometimes, when we have the chance to read the debut work of certain writers, we know that they are destined for great things from the very first pages. Lately, this has happened very frequently with incredibly talented young women who have created wonders. Jen Campbell, Hannah Kent, Sarah Perry, Kirsty Logan and Daisy Johnson. As soon as I finished her painfully beautiful short stories collection Fen, I knew. I just knew. And now her debut novel Everything
Ova - Excuse My Reading
Full review here
This book will win the Man Booker prize. I know it. (I will blame the jury if it doesn't)

I am in shock, and awe. I am disgusted by some parts of this book but I am also equally blown away. I have never read something like this before.

I dived into this book after reading the truly vague blurb, and thought `oh boy, this will be either a favourite or a disaster!`. I am Turkish, not a native English speaker and of some heavily metaphorical books that is aimed to crack the reader's sk
Jul 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Now Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018
This text is the reworking of a Greek tragedy (which one? (view spoiler)), a horror/ghost story, and a hall of mirrors - Daisy Johnson knows how to write exciting experimental fiction! As the novel progresses, the mythological source becomes clear, but she twists and turns the story and introduces a whole cabinet of doppelgängers, mirror images, and shape-shifting ghosts. Recurring topics are the nature of fear and the que
Jul 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2018

I will start with an apology - I know that a few friends have finished this one in the last couple of days - and I have been deliberately avoiding reading your reviews until I finished it myself because otherwise I would probably feel there is nothing fresh to say, and this really is a vibrant first novel from a very talented young writer, which thoroughly merits its inclusion on the longlist and could be a potential winner.

On the face of it I should hate
Celeste Ng
Saturated in mythology and fairy tales, EVERYTHING UNDER is weird and wild and wonderfully unsettling. Daisy Johnson writes in a torrent of language as unrelenting and turbulent and dark as the river at the book’s heart; dive in for just a moment and you’ll emerge gasping and haunted.
Aug 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: arc
I am so glad this book was longlisted for the Man Booker because I don’t think I would have read it otherwise and that would have been such a shame. This is for sure my favourite of the list so far and I really hope it’ll make the shortlist so that more people will read this stunning little book.

The plot is difficult to summarize and I find it even more difficult because I was spoiled in a pretty major way before even starting the book. It did not change my enjoyment of the story per se but I do
Gumble's Yard
Now deservedly shortlisted, although I don't want to alter my original review and spoil the alliteration.

A literary novel of the liminal, language, leaving and legend, longlisted for the 2018 Man Booker prize.

The river cut into the land. It was no good. She walked and walked until she slept. She saw the people on passing or moored boats looking at her and understood she did not look like a boy. She looked like something in between, uncertain, only half made.

This is firstly a book of the limin
Aug 06, 2018 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Peter Boyle
Oct 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: booker-nominee
I'm sorry to say that I didn't get on with Everything Under. Like everyone else, I was delighted to hear that a 27-year-old writer had made the Booker shortlist with her debut novel - just the kind of shake-up that the prize needs. But even though I can acknowledge some of the ambition and invention in this book, I found it exasperating to read.

The story involves Gretel, a woman looking for her mother, Sarah, around the canals of Oxfordshire. When Gretel was a teenager, they lived alone on a hou
Jonathan Pool
***** update****** Following Daisy Johnson In conversation Waterstones Garrick Street, September 27, 2018

* Daisy Johnson was reminded of the Oedipus myth when re reading her 'A' Level drama notes. On the subject of myths, Daisy described the new novel by Pat Barker "Silence of The Girls"- a retelling of the Iliad, as 'phenomenal'
* Mother/Daughter relationship is central. Daisy wanted a watcher character. Watching the myth for us (the reader). Theirs is an unusual relationship because it is not g
Paul Fulcher
Aug 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Now shortlisted for the 2018 Man Booker

"This is your story – some lies, some fabrications – and this is the story of the man who could have been my father and of Marcus, who was, to begin with, Margot – again, hearsay, guesswork – and this story, finally, is – worst of all – mine. This beginning I lay claim to. This is how, a month ago, I found you."

In a year when the Man Booker jury has seen fit to broaden the definition of the prize in several troubling directions - low quality genre fiction,
Britta Böhler
The writing is beautiful (despite some silly statements like "Old people are a species of their own" that are scattered throughout the book), and atmospheric. But unfortunately, the story didnt work for me at all. (view spoiler) ...more
Aug 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Although I ultimately found much to both admire and enjoy in this unusual novel, I also have to admit that I was perplexed almost as often, finding it difficult to orient myself for at least the first half (which seems to be intentional on the part of the author). I almost began to question if I, much like the character of Sarah, was suffering from the beginnings of dementia, since I couldn't seem to grasp even simple connections or keep three timelines straight ... which normally isn't a proble ...more
Eric Anderson
Sep 13, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Daisy Johnson's debut book of short stories 'Fen' was a bewitching example of how modern-day real-world issues could be given a darkly imaginative fairy tale spin. So I've been greatly anticipating her debut novel which references both 'Hansel and Gretel' and the myth of Oedipus. Before reading it I went to see Johnson speak at a Waterstones event focused on modern reimaginings of myths (since it's a literary trope so in vogue at the moment given recent novels from writers such as Kamila Shamsie ...more
Maddie C.
Rating: 3.5

Daisy Johnson’s debut novel is a “but” book. I’ll explain… my experience will reading it and, now, as I attempt to gather my thoughts and write my review is easily categorized with a single sentence: It was good, but…

To be fair, I had incredible high hopes for it after reading Johnson's short story collection Fen. I was looking forward to see the whimsical flavour and her lush writing tackle a full-length story I could be immersed in. Even before it was longlisted (and now shortlisted
Katie Long
Aug 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Oooh, this is all the things I like! Wild and messy, but still beautiful. There are fairy tale and classical allusions that help you keep a toe-hold so you don't get completely swept away in the river here. I appreciate that many reviews have kept exactly which ones under wraps because it really is better if you don’t know going in. I was utterly captivated! I couldn't put it down, but also never wanted it to end. Booker Longlist 5/13
Renee Godding
Aug 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: amazing-books
"There are more beginnings than there are ends to contain them."

5 out of 5 stars

Daisy Johnson earned herself a very much deserved place on the Man Booker longlist 2018 with this stunning debut novel. Everything Under is an exploration of the murky depths of memory, set in an equally gloomy and atmospheric world of canalboats, muddy riverbanks and creatures of folklore that may or may not lurk in the waters.

Although it’s masterfully crafted, it’s not an easy book to read; the author really
Everything Under is about just that: the things that lurk beneath the surface, of a river, of a memory, of a person. It is a slow unspooling of a horrifying and tragic story, a queer, found-family (sort-of) reimagining of a myth – I'd best not say which one, though it's mentioned in loads of reviews if you're curious. It should be unbearably disturbing. Yet it is also beautiful and ethereal, a story that casts life on the margins as both magical and ruinous.

Gretel and her mother Sarah are 'river
This novel was stunning. Everything Under is a retelling of a Greek myth (more on that in a second), set in the English countryside, which follows Gretel, a lexicographer, who's recently tracked down her estranged mother Sarah. It's a tricky plot to summarize as it unfolds with a nonlinear chronology, but it ultimately pieces together the fractured narrative that connects Gretel, Sarah, and a boy named Marcus who stayed with them on their riverboat for a month when Gretel was thirteen, before di ...more
Aug 23, 2018 rated it liked it

There is much to admire in this debut novel, (not least of which is that cover by Kustaa Saksi) but also a great deal that left me a little underwhelmed.

Starting with the the things I loved about Everything Under. Sarah, was the standout character for me, a singular, powerful influence, free-spirited and wild, slightly eccentric. At the start of the novel Sarah seems to be suffering from dementia and has been missing for a decade from her daughter, Gretel's, life. My favourite sections of
Roman Clodia
Aug 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Once upon a time, it was rare to find literary re-workings of classical myth and fairy tales: now they’re everywhere. This book uses a skeleton of both ((view spoiler)) upon which to hang a story of broken families and searches for home.

The problem for me, and I’m putting this in spoiler tags for anyone who hasn’t yet read this book, is that the premise of the myth just doesn’t stand up in a modern context:(view spoiler)
Sep 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Recommended to Antonomasia by: 2018 Booker longlist
You'd expect it to be more experimental, a novel about a professional lexicographer who shared a private childhood language with her mother. (Instead, there are just occasional items of idioglossia, and a few mentions of words she's worked on, common words, inside a typical literary-fiction style. Only one of their unique words has the potential to make readers think about the meanings contained within a lexeme, like foreign terms that pack ideas into one word which English treats as separate.) ...more
Aug 18, 2018 rated it liked it
Everything Under examines a dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship through language. The invented words and phrases they share (sheesh time, duvduv, harpiedoodle) set this reclusive pair apart – they ‘cut themselves off from the world linguistically as well as physically’. This singular childhood experience leads directly to the daughter’s career as a lexicographer (she’s currently working on the word ‘break’: to separate into pieces; become inoperative; sustain an injury). Meanwhile, her ai ...more
Jul 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"There are more beginnings than there are ends to contain them."

This arresting phrase caught my eye as I read this novel. It seems to say something about memory, which is discussed often during the course of the story ("Even the history I thought I’d kept was wrong"), but also about a a dominating theme of destiny:

"But sometimes I wonder if you are right and if all of our choices are remnants of all the choices we made before. As if decisions were shards from the bombs of our previous actions."

Aug 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
Here are the notes I jotted down while reading "Everything Under". They're not encouraging:

"Fresh but immature.
Experimental but sloppy.
Self-conscious and effortful.
Riddled with problematic grammar."

I can see from other reviews that this is not how the book struck many people, but I'm decidedly in the camp of those who were not enchanted.

It is disappointing that little of substance is actually borrowed from the Greek myth which inspired the story's core. Johnson doesn't really go beyond the 10-se
Matthew Quann
Any initial trepidation I had about Daisy Johnson’s fluid, amorphous prose evaporated within the first chapter of her Man Booker Shortlisted debut, Everything Under. Sentences, chapters, and characters are given the illusion of blending into one another and the riverside scenery in which most of the novel takes place. Everything Under is a novel that doesn’t lend itself to pick-up and put-down reading, and instead asks the reader to sink down into the lyricism of it all.

I’ve hemmed and hawed abo
As mesmerizing as it is unsettling. There were many moments when I had no idea what was going on, but I kept reading in the confidence that Daisy Johnson would pull it all together, which she does, beautifully. This is a bit like Kafka on the Shore, transplanted to an English riverside and given a healthier gender balance. There’s doubling, an Oedipal prophecy, and two Tiresias-like figures: a blind man and a transgender clairvoyant.

Gretel Whiting, a lexicographer, is searching for her estranged
Dannii Elle
This is a book that focuses on the nuances of language and the bond it creates between individuals. This is a book that has a lexicographer at the core of it. This is a book that is deep-rooted in ancient mythology and infamous fairy tale. This is a book that I will never forget.

The synopsis spoke of missing mothers and a childhood spent upon a river, which all sounded interesting enough, but I was not fully prepared for how wholly immersed I would become in this twisted tale. The timeline inter
Callum McLaughlin
Buckle up, I have a lot to say about this one! I'm already blindsided by how much thematic and narrative depth Johnson managed to pack into this book, and yet I suspect it's the kind of read for which my admiration will merely grow the more time I take to mull over what a monumental achievement it actually is.

The prose itself is absolutely gorgeous; easily one of the book's biggest draws. It is matched in quality by the rich and immersive atmosphere that is evoked with such a deft hand. Indeed,
The dust jacket of the UK edition of this book is gorgeous and made me eager to read the book. The story is a dark fairy tale about Gretel, Margot/Marcus, and Sarah. There are a few other significant characters - Fiona, Charlie, and Laurie & Roger - but the show belongs to the first three. The story begins and ends with Gretel in chapters labeled "The Cottage." In the opening chapter, Gretel is describing the current situation she is in, having finally found her mother, Sarah, a month ago. G ...more
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Shortisted for the Man Booker Prize for Everything Under, her debut novel.

Daisy Johnson's début short story collection, Fen, was published by Jonathan Cape on the 2nd of June, 2016 and by Graywolf in 2017.

She has been longlisted for the Sunday Times Short Story Award and the New Angle Award for East Anglian writing. She was the winner of the Edge Hill award for a collection of short stories and t
“The understanding pity of others is a hole.” 2 likes
“I'd always understood that the past did not die just because we wanted it to. The past signed to us: clicks and cracks in the night, misspelled words, the jargon of adverts, the bodies that attracted us or did not, the sounds that reminded us of this or that. The past was not a thread trailing behind us but an anchor. That was why I looked for you all these years, Sarah. Not for answers, condolences; not to ply you with guilt or set you up for a fall. But because – a long time ago – you were my mother and you left.” 1 likes
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