The Undertow

Books The Undertow This is my second book by Jo Baker I adore how this author writes I adore how she strings t

Books The Undertow This is my second book by Jo Baker. I adore how this author writes. I adore how she strings together her words. I adore the simplicity of her lines. Simple lines that speak volumes. In my review of A Country Road, A Tree I wrote: “The writing is not flowery nor elaborate. It catches the atmosphere of a place, emotions and events with a minimum of words. The result is clean and strong, efficient, moving, deep and philosophical all at the same time.” The same is true here. I cannot give a book with such wonderful writing anything less than four stars. If you have not tried this author, you must.So what is the plot about? We follow four generations of an English family, from 1914 to 2005. William Hastings departs on a ship for Gallipoli, both to see the world and to fight for his country. Then comes Billy who is a bicycle champion and one of the many to take part in the landing in Normandy, June 6, 1944. Yes, D-Day! British soldiers used bicycles in World War Two. Then follows Billy’s son Will, a crippled Oxford academic. The last is Billie an artist in contemporary London. You could say the book is about the 20th century, but I would say it is about life. Readers will recognize themselves in the events of the story - the struggles of life, the mistakes one makes, the courage it sometimes takes to go on. Fumbled relationships. Happy moments and terrible ones, all mixed together. Deaths and illness, but also the love felt for a child, a happy dog with a wagging tail and hope for the future. This is a book about normal people, and I liked that. It is not about criminals or famous heroes or particularly remarkable people. If you are looking for a fast-paced plot-driven story, look elsewhere. If extramarital love affairs are going to get you all upset, the book isn’t for you either. Plenty does happen, and there are certainly exciting episodes, but it is in the recognition of everyday moments that the book excels – the shoveling of coal, the pumping of your leg on a bicycle, bathing with a little sister and the horror on seeing her slip under the water. She is there and then she is gone. Whose fault is that, and who is to take the blame? There is physicality in the writing; you feel your own foot push the pedal. There is also an emotional pull, rooted in each reader’s personal memories as we relate to the events in the book. This book has two titles, The Picture Book and The Undertow. The first captures beautifully the snapshots this book delivers of the characters’ lives. Each chapter’s title tells you where and when the events occur, sometimes a day or two after the last, sometimes a decade later, but always moving forward in time. It is never hard to understand where you are in place or time or whose thoughts we are sharing. The picture book also refers to a book to collect postcards, the postcards sent by the first William to his newly-wed wife Amelia when he went off by ship to war. The second title, The Undertow, refers to the undertow of life, where life drags you. The different generations are each well drawn. The reader experiences the passage of time through the characters’ lives. Each of the four characters becomes an entity, someone you know and can relate to. The snapshots meld, drawing a picture of each person over their entire lifetime, except for Billie. We follow her to the age of thirty-one.In my last review, I offered very few quotes. Here I have made an effort to copy more, but keep in mind I was listening to the words, not reading them; there may be some errors. Only by reading the book will you see the lines in their proper context.“You can’t be permanently hysterical, so you might as well not bother getting started.” “He is alright. He is fine. You cannot wrap him up in cotton-wool.”“He is alone with his boy. Billy’s legs lift and sink, and lift again, one after the other on either side of the child. If he slips this way, I will catch him. If he slips that way, I will catch him too. The little head is heavy. It nods, and Billy puts an arm around the long slack body and cycles one-handed. I will always catch you. I will always keep you safe.” “The world is fucking treacherous. You can’t trust it.” “His fingernails are rimmed with little-boy-dirt.”“Now that he is gone, there is a hole left in the world.”“You and him though,” he says “that was different……Yeah, he liked you. I mean he loved you, but he liked you too. He never liked me.”“Maty is fourteen-years-old and therefore still immortal, and there is no arguing with that!”“The imagined and the real shift and slide across each other like layers of tracing paper and can’t be made to fit together.““He and Kiran were like sandpaper. Whatever one of them said, it seemed to grate the other.”“She wants to tell him about the hare skull, the dry newt with the dimpled eyes, the earlobe. These things, these damaged treasures, they need to be looked at, considered. They have their own beauty too.”“You know I really love what you have done to the place.” Kiran, when he views Billie’s room with clothes hung over furniture, books in heaps on the floor, total disorder reigning. I stuck this in so you see the book’s humor.“You have to look fate in the eye. You have to stare it down.“In my view, the last quote encapsulates one of the book’s messages. The book is also about family; we may think each generation stands alone, but that is not so. It is about fathers and sons and daughters. We love and we hurt each other in equal measure. With time, we get over the hurt because we are family. No, we don’t forget, but the anger subsides. The audiobook narration by Anna Bentinck is fabulous. The tempo, the pauses, the accents – all were perfect.. The Undertow are Kindle The American debut of an enthralling new voice a vivid, indelibly told work of fiction that follows four generations of a family against the backdrop of a tumultuous century a novel about inheritance, about fate and passion, and about what it means to truly break free of the past This is the story of the Hastings family their secrets, their loves and losses, dreams aThe American debut of an enthralling new voice a vivid, indelibly told work of fiction that follows four generations of a family against the backdrop of a tumultuous century a novel about inheritance, about fate and passion, and about what it means to truly break free of the past This is the story of the Hastings family their secrets, their loves and losses, dreams and heartbreaks captured in a seamless series of individual moments that span the years between the First World War and the present The novel opens in 1914 as William, a young factory worker, spends one last evening at home before his departure for the navy His son, Billy, grows into a champion cyclist and will ride into the D Day landings on a military bicycle His son in turn, Will, struggles with a debilitating handicap to become an Oxford professor in the 1960s And finally, young Billie Hastings makes a life for herself as an artist in contemporary London Just as the names echo down through the family, so too does the legacy of choices made, chances lost, and truths long buried.. Jo Baker is the author of six novels, most recently Longbourn and A Country Road, A Tree She has also written for BBC Radio 4, and her short stories have been included in a number of anthologies She lives in Lancaster, England, with her husband, the playwright and screenwriter Daragh Carville, and their two children.. Popular Kindle The Undertow Onvan : The Undertow - Nevisande : Jo Baker - ISBN : 307957098 - ISBN13 : 9780307957092 - Dar 352 Safhe - Saal e Chap : 2011
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  1. Jo Baker is the author of six novels, most recently Longbourn and A Country Road, A Tree She has also written for BBC Radio 4, and her short stories have been included in a number of anthologies She lives in Lancaster, England, with her husband, the playwright and screenwriter Daragh Carville, and their two children.

345 Reply to “The Undertow”


  1. This is my second book by Jo Baker I adore how this author writes I adore how she strings together her words I adore the simplicity of her lines Simple lines that speak volumes In my review of A Country Road, A Tree I wrote The writing is not flowery nor elaborate It catches the atmosphere of a place, emotions and events with a minimum of words The result is clean and strong, efficient, moving, deep and philosophical all at the same time The same is true here I cannot give a book with such wonde [...]


  2. It feels terribly clich d to talk about words painting pictures but, although I have tried to find other words, I can really think of no better way to express my feelings about this book.The author allows her reader to observe lives, visiting and watching And it works beautifully, because she understands the maxim show don t tell.She writes in the first person present tense, something I don t usually like But after the first page I didn t think about it I was caught up.The story opens in The Ele [...]


  3. Don t look beyond the next ten yards, is the advice Mr Rudd gives Billy Hasting, a cyclist and the second generation Hastings protagonist in this multi generational novel The advice echoes forward across the years to the final Hastings, Billie, who has learned from her family history to take her joy when and where she can find it In juxtaposition to this perhaps hopeful advice is the looming shadow of the evil Mr Sully and his bitten off earlobe, saved by Billy s mother and accidentally passed o [...]


  4. Was looking for a book to borrow from the library for my new Kindle and happened upon this, knowing absolutely nothing about it, not really expecting too much I was pleasantly surprised This is a haunting novel that spans four generations of of a British family, starting with William Hastings as he marches off to World War I, leaving his pregnant new bride who spends her days longing for the postcards he sends from the exotic places he was posted to The novel is broken into rather short sections [...]


  5. Eh Interesting premise, but under 350 pages to tell your story of four generations is not enough No character is fleshed out, what is put on paper is highly unlikeable These are really not people I want to read about Except Billie, who s ok But she s too little, too late We don t spend much time with her either Baker keeps lighting down on our protagonists during not particularly interesting times Major events in their lives have either happened in the past or is yet to happen This is annoying w [...]


  6. I enjoyed this book, perhaps because I m British but live in the US, and perhaps because I m interested in the wars that shaped the last century The structure is interesting, though the short extracts from the lives of four generations of a British family where all the protagonists are called a version of William made me feel that perhaps I wanted a four book saga The writer pulls no punches in writing about war and its effect on Britain s ordinary families, and for that I give her credit For so [...]


  7. I won this novel as a giveaway on This is a generational novel that follows four generations of the Hastings family from William in WWI, his son Billy, a champion cyclist who ends up in WWII, his son Will who becomes an Oxford professor, and his daughter Billie, who is an artist in present day This book was originally published in the UK with the title The Picture Book The former title refers both to a book of postcards the original William sent back from WWI, but also describes the structure of [...]


  8. Jo Baker s American debut of a novel is an enthralling, moving story of one family crossing four generations of time The chapters move from one couple to the next, including their children and the process of growing up along the way Each generation encounters their own unique hardships, including different wars, and Baker illustrates these challenges eloquently, allowing the reader to easily connect with the characters William is the first man discussed, and goes into the Navy in 1914 His son, B [...]


  9. I thought this was an interesting book about how war impacted several generations of one family While I enjoyed reading it, it had some flaws The biggest being, until the final Billie, there were no likeable characters Relationships consisted of the party who had an extramarital affair for often incomprehensible reasons and the pathetic and or self righteous injured party The book felt like a series of short stories, which were compelling to read but made me feel like I never fully got to know a [...]


  10. If you like stories that deeply explore a concentrated slice of life, The Undertow will provide you with a very satisfying read Personally, I like that type of writing and believe it is accomplished very effectively by British writers Jo Baker reminds me of writers like Helen Duns, Mona Simpson, Margo Livesey writers who give us a worldview where the whole is than the sum of its parts By exploring several generations of the same family, focusing on how people react to circumstances and pain bey [...]


  11. Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way, and Jo Baker does a fine job of presenting that desperation.The novel follows four generations of a British family, from the onset of WW I through modern times Each generation struggles with poverty in a manner befitting the setting, and each generation is possessed of a certain hope that things will get better so they hang on.The author uses present tense to lend a sense of immediacy, drawing in the reader The characters are so thoroughly Brit [...]


  12. Starting just before WW1 this is the story of 4 generations, each one with their own talents The final focus on the gt grand daughter neatly pulls together the story In the final two pages the story links to the future and events which the reader will be familiar with Although I didn t like all the main characters by an means it was an enjoyable read There were some open ends which kept the tension going There was no sense of the author giving her opinion the characters talked for themselves Wil [...]


  13. This is the US title of The Picture Book, one of my favourite novels of the last year Lyrical and lucid, the book s series of snapshots from the life of one family over most of a century has lingered in my mind over the months since I read it in a way that many a wordier tome would envy Baker s characters are tenderly, but not uncritically examined, their foibles as well as their heroism, and she has a gift for the unexpected turn of descriptive phrase which catalyzes a broader understanding A l [...]


  14. This book was beautifully written with rich, deep characters and a compelling storyline The story spans four generations with a feel of short stories about each yet neatly intertwined so that the book has a nice overall flow This story was hard to put down, which is surprising for me since I am usually impatient with short stories as they often leave me wanting Instead, this book gave enough detail to make me love and enjoy the characters, yet kept moving at a rapid pace Reader received a compl [...]


  15. I picked this up because I liked Fleur s review of it If you re in the mood for a family tale that takes you from 1914 to, I forget exactly, 2000 and a bit, but isn t exactly a family saga then this is the thing to read Short portraits of the lives of four generations that make a great story when they are put together Quite delightful.


  16. The Undertow chronicles the Hastings family and their secrets, dreams and heartbreaks The book spans between 1914 2004 and is comprised of multiple storylines that follow four generations of the family While not my favorite book I ve read this year it kept my interest at least most of the time I especially liked the author s unflinching look of the two world wars The Undertow is really a history of ordinary lives and the choices people make.


  17. I enjoyed the story stories of the four generations Slow getting into the book but as each generation came along I became caught up in their ups and downs by the time I got to Billie I definitely had to finish it to find out how she found her happiness Sometimes very sad and sometimes very happy but most of the story was life.


  18. One of the most boring books I ve ever struggled through There was little character development and the only tension was provided by the character of Sully, who threatened, but never seriously, three generations of the Hastings family When he showed up yet again in Oxford, I began to wonder just how long Sully was going to live Don t waste your time or your money,


  19. The writing is beautiful, and I found much of the book gripping, but it just didn t work for me as a novel It reads like a series of loosely connected short stories Which is fine Nothing wrong with that Just didn t totally work for me.


  20. A very beautiful story all around Not so much the characters but their lives are what is most interesting to me This author has great storytelling skills that will make you keep the book in your hand till your done reading Thanks for a speedy delivery.Xoxo winner


  21. I loved the format of this book dipping into a family s life every few years made it feel epic, yet not bogged down The author had a remarkable way of describing simple things, like the inky black of a dog s coat I loved this one.


  22. This book flowed well through the generations Even though it typically only covered a short period of time for the main characters you understood them well Great descriptive language Thought provoking book Will look for others by this author.



  23. I just didn t love it the first person present tense, and the overwhelming depressing atmosphere of the narrative No one is terribly happy or content, really, and we spend so little time with many people and relationships that it s hard to care one way or another about them It was fascinating to realize that the same author wrote Longbourn, which I loved I think this book just didn t delve thoroughly enough into any particular person s life for me to feel like they had any real happiness.


  24. I really do like Jo Baker s writing style Descriptively dense, she paints pictures with her narrative She must have done a lot of research for this book as it spans almost one hundred years Fashions, products, morals and language are spot on for their respective times This is my third Jo Baker book it won t be my last






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