#Blogtour Underwater Breathing by Cassandra Parkin @cassandrajaneuk @Legend_Press

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Under

On Yorkshire’s gradually-crumbling mud cliffs sits an Edwardian seaside house. In the bathroom, Jacob and Ella hide from their parents’ passionate arguments by playing the ‘Underwater Breathing’ game – until the day Jacob wakes to find his mother
and sister gone.

Years later, the sea’s creeping closer, his father is losing touch with reality and Jacob is trapped in his past. Then, Ella’s sudden reappearance forces him to confront his fractured childhood. As the truth about their parents emerges, it’s clear that Jacob’s time hiding beneath the water is coming to an end.

My Review

How long can you hold your breath underwater? That’s what Jacob and Ella do when their parents argue. That was in the past and now in the present Jacob must come to terms with a dad crippled by alcohol induced dementia, a house that is slowly disappearing into the sea and a long lost sister who he desperately wants to find.

Narrated in multiple voices, Parkin has done what she does brilliantly and created a novel full of the most wonderful characters.

I could not help but feel the angst of poor Jacob as he struggled with the burden of a sick Father, and the yearning for a sister he adored. When she finally returned after ten years I just knew that it would perhaps not be the joyous occasion he wanted it to be, that the image he had long held  would not be the one that he so desperately wanted.

My thoughts on Ella are of a young woman abandoned by her mother hoping her brother will provide her with the answers she wants. I loved her fragility, and as a young child her fear of the sea and the images the crumbling clifftop evoked in her mind.

Mrs Armitage was a character who intrigued me. She was brusque, matter of fact. a loner who was slowly pulled into the lives of Jacob and Ella. She was a character with a hard exterior, covering herself in a protective shell, impenetrable to all, yet underneath lurked a woman with a heart, a woman who felt herself drawn to Ella, and the lightness she brought into her lonely existence. I felt that she had something to hide and I loved the air of mystery that Parkin surrounded her with, as well using her as a magnet, the one Jacob, Ella and their mother felt somehow drawn to. She was very definitely a character full of surprises.

Parkins’ skill is in using the characters to show how we only see one side, how what we see and believe to be the truth can be so very different from that of someone else. The torment and anguish of both Jacob and Ella as they struggled to rationalise and come to terms with their past was beautifully written, and showcased the rawness of their emotions.

The imagery of a crashing sea, a crumbling cliff face and the wind and rain battering the house was so wonderfully evocative, that I could almost taste the salt and feel the sea spray. I loved the synergy between the ever decreasing closeness of the house’s inevitable demise and the slow building pressure and drama of events, as the tension mounted and truths were revealed.

The prevailing themes of mental illness and dementia are dealt with in a thoughtful and sensitive manner.  My heart went out to Jacob as he tried so hard to deal with his father’s dementia, and I shared his frustration, admired his overpowering belief that it was his responsibility to look after his father.

Ella’s Mum’s mental illness was plain for us to see but not so the characters in the novel. Ella too young to young to know what was wrong, and accepting her Mum for who she was as she grew up, knowing no different, and no other mothers with which to compare. Jacob, perhaps sensed something but concentrated on protecting his little sister.

I have to say that I absolutely loved this novel, I loved the characters, the setting, the imagery, in fact everything. It is the second of Parkin’s novels that I have read and Underwater Breathing has proved what an amzing author she is.

I would like to thank Imogen Harris and Legend Press for the opportunity to read and review and for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtou

About the author

Cassandra Parkin

CassandrParkin grew up in Hull, and now lives in East Yorkshire. Her short story collection, New World Fairy Tales (Salt Publishing, 2011) won the Scott Prize for Short Stories. Cassandra’s writing has been published in numerous magazines and anthologies.
Follow Cassandra on Twitter @cassandrajaneuk

Discover what my other fellow blogger thought about Underwater Breathing by following the blogtour

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