Claire Fuller’s Costa prize-winning novel begins with 70-year-old Dot getting up in the night in her farm cottage and collapsing from a stroke by the kitchen hearth. Her body is found in the morning by her two adult children who face an uncertain future in the wake of her death.
Twins Jeanie and Julius are 51 years old and have led desperately sheltered lives, never venturing far from home, living off the land and eschewing modern necessities such as bank accounts, television and the internet. Unsettled Ground provides a richly detailed portrait of two outsiders out of step with the world and forced to confront the lies their late mother told to keep them at home. As well as showing the siblings’ emotional implosion, Fuller depicts the harsh realities of life in a remote rural community where work is scarce and many live in dire poverty.
Reader Rachel Bavidge – who has narrated works by Paula Hawkins and Adele Parks, and Fuller’s own Bitter Orange – deftly gives voice to Jeanie and Julius, capturing their frustration and heartbreak as they realise the scale of their mother’s deception, as well as the peripheral figures who variously help and hinder their journey towards a new life. These include Dot’s old friend Bridget, who provides emotional support as the twins deal with the bureaucracy of bereavement; Spencer Rawson, the wealthy neighbour whose cottage they live in and who threatens them with eviction; and the family doctor who delivers some shocking news that causes Jeanie to reassess not just her mother but her entire existence.
Unsettled Ground is available from Penguin Audio, 9ora 29min.
David Pevsner, Random House Canada, 11ora 5min
The actor David Pevsner reads his eye-wateringly candid memoir, looking back on his career during which he supplemented his screen and stage income by working as a male escort.
Thomas Harding, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 10ora 8min
Ben Onwukwe and Mark Meadows narrate this sensitive account of the uprising of enslaved people in Demerara (now part of Guyana) nel 1823, and the role of the author’s ancestors in colonialist oppression.