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Unsettled Ground (2021)

von Claire Fuller

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2362191,202 (4.02)92
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Beautifully written drama on the margins of Brexit Britain that won the Orange prize. When their old mom, Dot, dies of a heart attack in their remote cottage, the twins Jeanie and Julius have to finally engage with the world in their early fifties. They live a cosy, but frugal, life in a rent free cottage of the farm owner Rowland, a deal supposedly struck out of guilt of the land lord over the tragic death of their father during a farm accident on a tractor, way back.

But then adversity strikes: electricity has been cut off, Dot has incurred debts everywhere, and the cottage is not rent-free as was their understanding. There is not even money to give their mom a proper funeral. Julius does odd jobs, but Jeanie who cannot read or write, has to use her cunning, and she does. Dot ends up buried beneath the apple tree in the back yard, Jeanie manages to find a new job as gardener with a kind single mom. Jeanie’s (twisted) sense of justice (panning out in favour of ‘the other’ time and again) made me wanna cry out in anguish at times: she is abused by all sorts of folks, who appear to be helping (beautiful stroke, painting the ‘invisible hand of greed’ of neo-liberal, Tory England). There is all kinds of support on offer, but this hardly ever materializes when you do not have a smart phone, access to internet, a bank account or have difficulties reading. Their mom’s best friend who works at the local GP helps out when the twins are evicted from their cottage, but things go from bad to worse when Julius secures a dilapidated caravan on a patch of wasteland as their new home, and three local youths go on the rampage bullying Jeanie and shooting Julius.

Meanwhile, touching signs of humanity keep the twins going as they discover that their mom Dot has presented them with quite a twisted version of the truth to keep them close in the face of devastating cruelty: the twins understand each other as no other pair, they sing beautiful folk songs and Julius even pulls off a gig at the local pub, Jeanie nurtures everything alive around her (not just vegi’s, also her dog), Julius manages to engage in a little love affair with a big busted beauty at the fish and chips shop. Fuller is an accomplished writer, who knows how to paint a humane tapestry of poverty and greed in Brexit England. Her Orange prize is both timely and well-deserved. ( )
  alexbolding | Jan 20, 2022 |
This was a lovely family story. Fifty-something twins Jeanie and Julius live with their mother in a cottage on the grounds of an estate. They eke out a living with Julius doing odd jobs in the neighborhood (he becomes ill riding in motor vehicles, and can only work within biking distance). Jeanie and her mother grow veggies and other goodies to sell at an upscale market/deli. Jeanie and Julius have always been told that the owner of the estate has granted their family the use of the cottage and garden "rent-free" for life due to the mysterious and tragic death of their father while working for the landowner when they were children.
When their mother dies suddently, Jeanie and Julius learn that she may have been hiding things from them, many things. They can't afford a funeral, the electricity is turned off, and they learn that they are many months behind on the rent for the cottage. They don't even have enough money to buy food. Then things start to go from bad to worse.
I loved this book. Jeanie and Julius are unusual people, and I've rarely encountered characters in books like them Yet they are so real and brilliantly imagined. It's hard to read everything they go through and not despair, but they keep at it, and in the end you love them. Highly recommended.

4 stars ( )
1 abstimmen arubabookwoman | Nov 28, 2021 |
This felt like historical fiction as I was reading it because of the incredibly backward, poverty-stricken conditions in which Jeanie and Julius lived in rural England. It was very hard to imagine them living like that for 50 years without any changes. I was reminded of the author's previous book "Our Endless Numbered Days" and "Where the Crawdads Sing" by Delia Owens. However, Julius owns a cellphone and other residents have access to the internet, and I do know there are many people who live in similarly deprived circumstances. Many aspects are depressing, especially because the situation could have been avoided if the twins' mother had not kept secrets from and even lied to them. There are definitely over-the-top twists, but it is very well written, the primary characters are basically likeable and develop personally and socially throughout the book. ( )
  terran | Nov 24, 2021 |
Jeanie and Julius are 51 years old and have always lived with their mother, Dot, in poverty in a ramshackle cottage. Julius works odd jobs to provide food for the family but Jeanie has spent her life at home. At a young age, her mother told her that she had heart problems. She frequently stayed home from school and never finished her education. She spent her life in her garden and playing music with her family. When Dot dies unexpectedly, Jeanie and Julius are not sure what to do next. They know that they can't afford a funeral and after leaving the body in the parlor for several days, they decide to bury her in the yard. Soon the owner of the cottage takes the cottage back and makes them move out. Now they have to make some real decisions -- Julius wants to continue to be loyal to his sister but he is also yearning to be independent from his family Jeanie struggles to find work and a home for them to live in. When they begin to find secrets that their mom kept from them - they begin to wonder who they are and if everything she told them was a lie. Will they be able to recover and learn to live life without their mother?

This character driven book moved rather slowly at times but it was well worth it to read and see how if Jeanie and Julius could become adults instead of the children that they've always been treated as, and find their places in the world. ( )
  susan0316 | Nov 2, 2021 |
Jeanie and Julius are 51-year-old twins who still live with their mother Dot in a small, run-down, rented cottage. Jeanie had rheumatic fever and a child, and the school she missed left her hopelessly behind and the fever itself left her with heart problems. Julius has been the man of the house since his father died in a freak accident while working for their landlord when the twins were children.

Then Dot, 71, dies unexpectedly (to the twins, anyway). Soon their world is completely shifted with revelations about the secrets Dot kept from them and the lies she told to them. Soon they are evicted. They--especially Jeanie--has no idea how to exist in the modern world. She knows music, cooking, and gardening. Julius is always having brilliant ideas that never come to fruition. Dot's friend Bridget is their lifeline, and their own link to the truths their mother never shared.

I found this book to be painfully, painfully sad. The twins are middle aged. They could have had normal lives--relationships, families, jobs, friends--if their mother had been honest. Seeing Jeanie step up and overcome her fears and embarrassment is wonderful and wonderfully done--but her reactions to her new knowledge that Dot stole her future from her is also staggering and heartbreaking.

I liked the story, and it was a very fast read for me, but I was left with a few questions: is official paperwork really that easy to avoid? If this is such a small town, how do they not know more people from their own school days and well as Julius' odd jobs work and hanging out at the bar? How did Ed get away with taking Jeanie's $300 and not finishing the job, and taking their belongings?

It was nice, though, to read a book with so many older characters.

Also, I thought the title was perfect. ( )
  Dreesie | Sep 25, 2021 |
Every small town (and every neighborhood in every city) has its oddballs, the people who live on the fringes, a little out of step with everyone else. Fairy tales sometimes cast them as witches, or as beautiful young royals cursed to live as beasts. Children's books often redeem them with some lesson about how outsiders are just like everyone else, despite their strange appearances or ramshackle houses or mysterious actions.

But how often, in our stories, are oddballs allowed to remain exactly who they are? How often do they take center stage as main characters and reorient our view of what is "normal"? How often are such characters given rich, complex, and interior lives, complete with sorrows, talents, opinions, and flaws? Claire Fuller's new novel, Unsettled Ground, does just that.,,,Dot, a 70-year-old woman, dies in the first chapter, and the rest of the novel is concerned with her twin children who are 51...Unsettled Ground is a terribly beautiful book, and although its premise may seem quiet, it is full of dramatic twists and turns right up until its moving, beautiful end.
Claire Fuller’s impressive new novel opens by documenting, in fine and gravely moving detail, the last moments of an elderly woman, Dot, early one snowy morning in the isolated, run-down cottage she has shared with her children, the middle-aged twins Jeanie and Julius, since the violent death of their father in an accident almost 40 years earlier..... Within days, Jeanie and Julius find themselves facing eviction and a fabric of secrets constructed over a lifetime begins to unravel....But it is exactly this note of astringency, combined with Fuller’s skill at evoking both the ineradicable animal pleasures – from sex to the smell of a garden after rain – and the squalid misery of sleeping rough, that gives the narrative its fierce, angry energy.

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AutorennameRolleArt des AutorsWerk?Status
Fuller, ClaireHauptautoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Bavidge, RachelErzählerCo-Autoreinige Ausgabenbestätigt
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O, will you find me an acre of land,
Savoury sage, rosemary and thyme,
Between the sea foam, and the sea sand,
Or never be a true love of mine.

"Scarborough Fair," traditional English ballad
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For my parents
Ursula Pitcher
and Stephen Fuller
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The morning sky lightens, and snow falls on the cottage.
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It is hard to rewrite your own history.
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Durchschnitt: (4.02)
2 3
3 6
3.5 3
4 29
4.5 12
5 9

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