Below Deck

Below Deck

3.96 (2,628 ratings by Goodreads)
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Description

And then, just like that, a thought bubbles inside me. It's a beginning; a new beginning; my beginning. The beginning of the story I tell myself in order to survive.
We choose to breathe, don't we?

Twenty-one-year-old Olivia hears the world in colour, but her life is mottled grey. Estranged from her parents, and living with her grandfather who is drowning in sadness, Oli faces the reality of life beyond university alone.

When she wakes on a boat with no recollection of how she got there, she accepts the help of two strangers who change the course of her future forever. With Mac and Maggie, Oli learns to navigate a life upon open ocean and the world flowers into colours she's never seen before.

Four years later, Oli, fluent in the language of the sea, is the only woman among men on a yacht delivery from Noumea to Auckland. In the darkness below deck, she learns that at sea, no one can hear you scream.

Moving to London, Oli's life at sea is buried. When she meets Hugo, the wind changes, and her memories are dust blown into shapes. Reminding her of everything.

Below Deck is about the moments that haunt us, the moments that fan out like ripples through the deep. So that everything else, becomes everything after.

'Lyrical, profound, and deeply moving Sophie Hardcastle's Below Deck will confront as well as soothe, and is the most tender, hopeful battle-cry of a book.' - Brooke Davis

'Hardcastle has captured the powerful words so many of us struggle to find, and I cannot imagine anyone could finish Below Deck unaffected.' - Bri Lee

'Below Deck will leave you breathless. Sophie Hardcastle is a phenomenal, courageous talent.' - Clementine Ford
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Product details

  • Paperback | 296 pages
  • 153 x 234mm | 394g
  • Sydney, Australia
  • English
  • 1760876380
  • 9781760876388
  • 206,949

Review quote

'The free-flowing intensity of the wind and waves that drives her characters' lives, also powers Sophie Hardcastle's memorable prose. Her writing sweeps us through hemispheres and across oceans with astonishing and immersive force. This is a deeply moving story of a young woman growing up, and Hardcastle is an extraordinary talent.' - Elleke Boehmer

'Three years ago I read 156 new novels as a Judge for the Man Booker Prize. This was on a par with the top 20 of them... I commend Sophie not only for her gifts but for her great courage in writing about some very difficult material in an unflinching and deeply moving manner. To have written a novel that speaks implicitly but never didactically to the trauma of the #MeToo age... is an astonishing achievement.' - Sir Jonathan Bate, Provost of Worcester College, Oxford

'Lyrical, profound, and deeply moving Sophie Hardcastle's Below Deck will confront as well as soothe, and is the most tender, hopeful battle-cry of a book.' - Brooke Davis

'Hardcastle has captured the powerful words so many of us struggle to find, and I cannot imagine anyone could finish Below Deck unaffected.' - Bri Lee

'Below Deck will leave you breathless. Sophie Hardcastle is a phenomenal, courageous talent.' - Clementine Ford

'Below Deck is a stunning literary novel. This is a poetic work that can be read aloud just as easily as it can be read in silence.' - Australian Book Review

Hardcastle's new novel, Below Deck, is about women, their bodies and the landscape; it is also about sexual violence and assault, trauma, and how survival can lie in reclaiming your own story. [...] Colours ripple through the novel's prose; shades give new dimensions to experiences.' - The Sydney Morning Herald / The Age

'A novel that speaks implicitly but never didactically to the trauma of the #MeToo age . . . an astonishing achievement.' - Sir Jonathan Bate, author and critic

'The trauma follows Oli through the book, but the ending is one of the most hopeful and empowering I've read in a long time.' - Buzzfeed

'A new voice has emerged in Australian fiction with one of the most highly anticipated books of the year. Sophie Hardcastle's Below Deck is a tender, poetic, almost hypnotic coming of age story. [...] It's impossible not to be affected by this book. [...] Below Deck is so much more than a fictional account of harrowing experience. It's about personhood, self-discovery, art, nature, community, the colour of voices and the sound of sailing. Love it. Love it. Love it.' - Ben Hunter, The Booktopian

'Hardcastle's sense of the natural world - of what it means to be at one with the ocean, and of the intrinsic, grandeur of Antarctica - reverberates in every sentence. And Olivia's synaesthesia, her capacity to experience the world in colour brings a vivid intensity to some of the descriptions. [...] #MeToo has clearly had a profound influence on this novel, and Hardcastle's delineation of the ambiguities and uncertainties that underpin consent is both cogent and moving.' - The Australian

'"Below Deck" is the book of 2020.' - QBD Books

'The most interesting element of the novel is not only Hardcastle's sophisticated negotiation of the politics of consent, but her depiction of the broader social structures of power, which surround the narrative events as a whole. This context of power as a theme is essential to our understanding of the rape itself, but Hardcastle also does vital work in the minute detail she offers in personal interactions between key characters. [...] Hardcastle makes wonderfully clear the manner in which a victim's understanding of the events can change and develop over time, and that there may be many 'truths' felt through the experience of trauma.' - Catherine Noske, Feminist Writer's Festival

'Achingly haunting, this book and its characters stay with you, long after the dark pink sea.' - Dymocks Books

'Sophie Hardcastle's Below Deck is the kind of book that cracks open your heart, then knits it back together, leaving you scarred. It sears a place in your memory, not only because of its characters and the legacy of trauma experienced by its protagonist, but because of Hardcastle's luminous prose and quite brilliant implementation of colour. The savagery of its subject belies the beauty of its writing. It's a powerful, unforgettable synthesis; a painfully page-turning read, a vividly three-dimensional, lacerating dissection of female abuse at the hands of men. [...] Fierce, poetic and uncompromising. There's a lot of hype surrounding Sophie Hardcastle's Below Deck. It's warranted.' - Simon McDonald, bookseller & critic

'Olivia has synaesthesia, which makes for rich and evocative scenes that can jump off the page. But Below Deck will also disturb you and shows how one drop-in-the-ocean moment can have a deep impact on a life.' - Herald Sun

'Below Deck is a remarkably ambitious novel. Its chapters span an arc of emotions, people, landscapes and lands. And Oli, who tells her own story, tells it in language, which is often poetic, imaginative and allusive. The title, too, suggests not only Oli's sailing experiences but also the hidden psychological depths, which come from those experiences.' - Newtown Review of Books

'How do we tell the story of ourselves when language fails us? With glorious colour, Sophie Hardcastle answers in her gutsy and vivid debut, Below Deck. Her synesthetic heroine, Olivia, experiences the world in pigments: a beloved friend is "velvet lilac," the number three is "uneasy green". Years after a fateful sailing voyage, the memory of a red encounter - deepest red - smoulders away. As timely as it is evocative, Below Deck's polychromatic depiction of trauma and its aftermath speaks to how women learn to inhabit their bodies and the world, and how those dark lessons can be triumphantly unlearned.' - Beejay Silcox, Australian literary critic
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About Sophie Hardcastle

Sophie Hardcastle was born in 1993. She is an author, artist, screenwriter and scholar. In 2018, she was a Provost's Scholar in English Literature at Worcester College, at the University of Oxford, where she wrote Below Deck. In 2017, Sophie was an artist-in-residence with Chimu Adventures in Antarctica. Sophie is the author of the critically acclaimed Running Like China (2015) and Breathing Under Water (2016). She is the co-creator, co-writer and co-director of the online series Cloudy River.
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Rating details

2,628 ratings
3.96 out of 5 stars
5 34% (888)
4 37% (970)
3 23% (596)
2 5% (136)
1 1% (38)
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