The Hastings are engagingly real, regular folk. They may have their flashes of vision and talent, but mainly they are occupied with securing their comforts in life - love, shelter, enough to eat. The pain and loss of the two World Wars take their toll on the family, tugging on the fates of the surviving members for generations. In Jo Baker's vision, the "undertow" of the title - the strong, slightly sinister pull of large-scale events - exerts an undeniable force on people that isn't always visible from the surface.
Water metaphors swirl through Baker's fiction like hidden currents in a seaside postcard.
From literal water-crossings (naval battles in WWI and the all-important landing at Normandy in WWII), Baker moves into the territory of watery nightmares, water breaking in labor, water sloshing in the bath. The overt traumas of war shift and mutate into hidden hurts -...
Beyond the Book
In The Undertow
, the second-generation Billy Hastings makes a name for himself as a racing cyclist in the years between World War I and World War II and goes on to serve in a vital detachment of bicycle soldiers on D-Day in 1944. Bicycle racing had already accumulated a long history by the 1920s and military groups all over the world, such as the British Cyclist Divisions, experimented with bicycle infantry, ambulance transporters, messengers and scouts. (Bicycles were more affordable than horses, and they reduced the need for fuel used by motorized vehicles.) Here are a few significant turning points in the chronology of bicycle history: