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Everything Under

3.55  ·  Rating details ·  11,221 ratings  ·  1,557 reviews
The dictionary doesn’t contain every word. Gretel, a lexicographer by trade, knows this better than most. She grew up on a houseboat with her mother, wandering the canals of Oxford and speaking a private language of their own invention. Her mother disappeared when Gretel was a teen, abandoning her to foster care, and Gretel has tried to move on, spending her days updating ...more
Hardcover, 264 pages
Published July 12th 2018 by Jonathan Cape
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Addie H I would say it's not suitable for a 12 year old. There is not only blatant sex, but there are some very confusing and disturbing events that unfold I …moreI would say it's not suitable for a 12 year old. There is not only blatant sex, but there are some very confusing and disturbing events that unfold I don't think a 12 year old can quite understand.(less)

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Average rating 3.55  · 
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 ·  11,221 ratings  ·  1,557 reviews

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Amalia Gkavea
‘’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 Everythi
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
Charlotte May
"The language I grew up speaking was one no one else spoke. So I was always going to be isolated, lonely, uncomfortable in the presence of others. It was in my language. It was in the language you gave me."

3.5 ⭐️

I enjoyed this. It was certainly different, it took me a while to get into and understand what was happening, but once I did I found this to be a wonderfully descriptive and engrossing read.

The story is a retelling of the Oedipus myth from Greek mythology and is split into 3 timelines/
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.
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
Jul 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018-read, uk, 2018-mbp
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
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
Mar 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: fairy-tale, eerie
The past was not a thread trailing behind us but an anchor.

Any decisions we make are only mirages,’ the narrator of Daisy Johnson’s first novel, Everything Under, is told by her mother, ‘ghosts to convince us of free will.Everything Under is a blissfully accomplished novel that follows the intertwined narratives of people who are trying to escape from their personal history as much as they are trying to uncover and understand their history. The three principal character lead lives that are a
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
Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer
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 lim
Violet wells
Jan 24, 2020 rated it liked it
I'll start by confessing that the only two highly esteemed British female writers I've never been able to connect with are Jeanette Winterson and Angela Carter (you can add Fay Weldon too though her reputation has declined). I've only read one novel by these three authors but what they had in common was a somewhat bludgeoning emphasis on sexual politics. Daisy Johnson too here uses this as her principle viewfinder.

She was twenty-seven when she wrote this and yet like Evie Wyld, another young f
Aug 06, 2018 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I’ve been intrigued by this book since it first came out. I can’t count the times I’ve held the hardback edition in bookshops. Something about the title and its weird and gorgeous cover really pulled me in to it all the time, and oh!, when I get intrigued by something there’s no way I’m not going to find out why.

So last week I decided I couldn’t wait any longer, so I bought myself a copy and ran home so I could start it.

First of all, I want to say I was totally gripped after the first page - wh
Hannah Greendale
A tale of subtle tension, tricksy and unnerving.
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
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)
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
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,
Oct 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
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
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
Shelves: booker-18

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
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
Renee Godding
"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
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
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
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
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 ...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
Jan 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Everything Under is a dark, tangled novel that feels very original. The underlying pulse is offbeat and strange. As a reader, I felt I was entering unexplored territory. But it was not work to read this novel - the story grabbed hold of me and kept me turning the pages. I surrendered to my initial confusion and slid through the knotty plot. Now that I'm finished, I feel raw and almost skinned. Yes, I liked this book! ...more
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The author of Sisters (2020) Everything Under (2018) and Fen (2016).

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Everything Under, her debut novel.

Winner of the Edgehill prize for Fen.

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 the AM Heath Prize.


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51 likes · 32 comments
“The places we are born come back to us. They disguise themselves as words, memory loss, nightmares. They are the way we sometimes wake with a pressure on our chests that is animal-like or turn on a light and see someone we'd thought was long gone standing there looking at us.” 22 likes
“The places we are born come back. They disguise themselves as migraines, stomach aches, insomnia. They are the way we sometimes wake falling, fumbling for the bedside lamp, certain everything we’ve built has gone in the night. We become strangers to the places we are born. They would not recognize us but we will always recognize them. They are marrow to us; they are bred into us. If we were turned inside out there would be maps cut into the wrong side of our skin. Just so we can find our way back. Except, cut wrong side into my skin are not canals and train tracks and a boat, but always: you.” 15 likes
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