Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller

Published: 2021 Genre: Contemporary fiction 1. First lines. 2. Cover: Penguin 3. Hands [Public Domain] via piqsels 4. Cottage [Public Domain] via piqsels

Jeanie and Julius are 51-year old twins living in poverty with their mother Dot in a rented dilapidated cottage in the English countryside. When Dot dies suddenly, she leaves her children with little means to sustain themselves, and their lives quickly degenerate to an even more dire situation. As they try to survive, they find out that their mother has kept secrets from them.

“This is what they do when things are good and when they’re not.”

Glanceabook: Using a storytelling style that flows easily, the author manages to convey the hopelessness felt by the main character as her life falls apart after her mother’s death. This reader empathised with her situation, but wasn’t convinced that some of the other characters would behave as they did. Still, a very satisfying read.

  • Kirkus: “Fuller is a master of building suspense. At once unsettling and hopeful, her book checks all the boxes of an engrossing mystery, but it falters in its pacing. And when the book’s big dark secret is finally exhumed, the reader feels just as cheated as its protagonists do. Misfortune runs amok in a story that can only be saved by turning the last page.
  • NPR: 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.”
  • Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021:Unsettled Ground is a heart-stopping novel of betrayal and resilience, love and survival. It is a portrait of life on the fringes of society that explores with dazzling emotional power how we can build our lives on broken foundations, and spin light from darkness.


The morning sky lightens, and snow falls on the cottage. It falls on the thatch, concealing the moss and the mouse damage, smoothing out the undulations, filling in the hollows and slips melting where it touches the bricks of the chimney. It settles on the plants and bare soil in the front garden and forms a perfect mound on top of the rotten gatepost, as though shaped from the inside of a teacup.

“She’d taught them not to take anything from anyone, because as night turns into day, they – especially if they were the government – would come knocking and asking for it back, or more.”

“Perhaps this is how it happens: eventually after every activity that has been carried out at least once without Dot’s presence – the potting on of tomatoes, the making of rabbit pie, the playing of each song – Jeanie will no longer notice that her mother is gone. She isn’t sure this is what she wants.

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