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Unsettled Ground

Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller

As seen:

  • Women's Prize for Fiction longlist 2021

By Claire Fuller

avg rating

2 reviews

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What if the life you have always known is taken from you in an instant?

What would you do to get it back?

Twins Jeanie and Julius have always been different from other people. At 51 years old, they still live with their mother, Dot, in rural isolation and poverty. Inside the walls of their old cottage they make music, and in the garden they grow (and sometimes kill) everything they need for sustenance.

But when Dot dies suddenly, threats to their livelihood start raining down. Jeanie and Julius would do anything to preserve their small sanctuary against the perils of the outside world, even as their mother’s secrets begin to unravel, putting everything they thought they knew about their lives at stake.

Unsettled Ground is a heart-stopping novel of betrayal and resilience, love and survival. It is a portrait of life on the fringes of society that explores with dazzling emotional power how we can build our lives on broken foundations, and spin light from darkness.


19 Jul 2021

Unsettled Ground tells the story of a family bound together by tragedy. Dot, the matriarch, has always had a clear set of rules that the family have to live by. Since the death of her husband she has lived in a remote cottage with her twins, Jeanie and Julius. Self-sufficient, they have always shied away from village life. However, when Dot dies of a stroke she leaves the twins alone for the first time in their lives.
Jeanie and Julius are fifty-one, but have never lived apart. They are - for reasons that become clear - quite dependent on one another. After the unexpected death of their mother they come to learn just how harshly life can treat you.
Upon their mother’s death they learn that she wasn’t entirely honest about their situation. They find themselves with ‘friends’ demanding money to repay debts they didn’t know they had. Soon they find themselves evicted from the one family home they know, and scrabbling to survive.
It is clear that both Jeanie and Julius have difficulties in living a normal life. Jeanie can’t read or write, but the spirit and resolve each shows is quite remarkable. Sadly, their self-reliance seems unnecessary and as the book progresses - and we learn more about their history - it is painfully apparent that this need not have been their life.
As soon as I began reading I was struck by the beauty of the writing about the everyday experiences. Though focusing on a very miserable subject, there was an inner strength to this that I couldn’t help but admire. It reminded me in parts of Bruce Chatwin’s On the Black Hill, and left me with a similar feeling of unease upon finishing.

30 May 2021


Enjoyed this one. Claire Fuller writes so well that to start with I thought I was reading literary fiction and expected to be challenged by the content. The story, however, turns out to be quite commercial and disappointingly predictable. Nevertheless, it's a good read and kept me engaged throughout

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