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Posted 20 hours ago

Deep Down: the 'intimate, emotional and witty' 2023 debut you don't want to miss

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In one finely wrought section during a family holiday to Spain, 13-year-old Tom is privy to an awful altercation between his parents in the supermarket. Imogen handles complicated family dynamics and the unspoken things that come between us with remarkable sensitivity and insight, as well as perfect dark humour that is so much a part of navigating grief. Our understanding of the characters is quite limited to their relationship and history with their father.

Billie, who has a ‘plain, mashed potato sort of face’, lives in London, while Tom (a failed actor, whose only success was in a Christmas advert) has moved to Paris to work in a bar. There are no histrionics here, nor any glib resolutions, but a superbly observed exploration of intimacy and its failings. The passage about how they used to try and make each other laugh in church particularly brought me back.It's valid that it all goes back to their upbringing and childhood but while we dug deeper, we didn't get to go broader. We see the book flit back to them as children and them now as they attempt to get their lives back on track.

West-Knights deftly shows us that the relationship between the siblings, and with their dad William, is anything but straightforward.Billie and Tom are not necessarily likeable characters, but as the story progresses with flashbacks to their childhood we start to understand why they’re a bit messed up and have such a tense relationship - they’ve both processed their father’s behaviour in a different way and are therefore handling his loss differently too. The story is about Tom and Billie, they have both had a bereavement in the family and seeing as they both are so far away from each other they decide to reconnect and hope that being together will help with the grief. The subterranean climax introduces a note of the uncanny that doesn’t quite convince, and the ending feels unresolved, though perhaps this is in keeping with the idea that the “möbius strip” of complex grief does not allow for tidy closure.

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