BookBrowse Reviews The World Beneath by Cate Kennedy

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Read-Alikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The World Beneath

by Cate Kennedy

The World Beneath by Cate Kennedy X
The World Beneath by Cate Kennedy
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Paperback:
    Feb 2011, 352 pages


  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Judy Krueger
Buy This Book

About this Book



A thrilling debut novel about a fragmented family, the struggle for redemption and the mystery of the Tasmanian wilderness

Australian novelists rock. Authors such as Tim Winton, Evie Wyld, and many others from down under share a certain grittiness combined with tenderness as they take an honest look at the helplessly dysfunctional nature of the human heart. With her first novel, following her 2008 short stories Dark Roots, Cate Kennedy firmly secures a place in that class.

The story revolves around a fractured family, an out-of-date subculture and an extinct Tasmanian species. Rich and Sandy, two idealistic young adults, fall in love during the 1980s as they fight side by side to save the Franklin River in Tasmania from a dam that would disrupt the ecological balance of the island's vast wilderness. So young, so undeveloped, so clueless about life in many ways, they form a bond that lasts ten years, based purely on the shared exhilaration of that moment in time when it seemed their idealism had the power to change the world. When a child enters the picture, Rich comes flat up against his interpersonal shortcomings and runs for his life, leaving Sandy to bear the consequences.

We have all known a Sandy in some form. She holds desperately to a New Age outlook, making do with little to no financial security, living as much as possible off the grid in a small town, bolstered by women friends of similar persuasions. In Sandy's mind, her devotion to raising her daughter Sophie justifies everything about her way of life. But the fact is, she bears a deep grudge against Rich and his desertion, and her hippie persona is a reflection of how she had never really moved on. Sophie is now about to turn fifteen and is the one who maintains a sense of stability for her mom, and she longs to know the father she has never met.

When Rich resurfaces, and he and Sophie set off for a week-long hike for her birthday, the reader knows enough about the characters to suspect that extreme danger lies dead ahead. The slow build of suspense, the revealed personality fractures in each character, and the threatening weather of Tasmania work to suck the reader right into the vortex along with the lead characters.

Sophie is the lynchpin and, in the end, the true hero of the story. Pierced, buried under Goth-style clothes and hair, frighteningly intelligent and competent but destructively up tight, she lights up this tale with intensity. Her teenage irony and contempt for anything adult is perfectly created in the dialogue, and she is one bright spot of humor in this fairly dark tale. (Likewise, laughs are created when Sandy goes away on her yoga retreat - the New Age instructors and counselors get their fair share of mockery, and even Sandy can laugh at herself when she isn't freaking out.)

Contrary to the few editorial criticisms The World Beneath has received, including "lengthy stream-of-consciousness paragraphs" and a general lack of profundity, the writing is precise and assured, which is what you would expect from an author who has been called "Australia's Queen of the Short Story." When the Tasmanian tiger appeared at the tensest moment of the wilderness adventure, I realized I had been taken to a deeper mental and emotional place than I had expected and that either complete disaster or redemption was at hand. I have not read a more consummate book on the demands of parenthood and the gap between generations in quite a while. All in all, this is a great and gripping read, from the first sentence to the last.

Reviewed by Judy Krueger

This review first ran in the March 9, 2011 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!


Read-Alikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The World Beneath, try these:

  • Past the Shallows jacket

    Past the Shallows

    by Favel Parrett

    Published 2014

    About this book

    More by this author

    Hauntingly beautiful and told with an elegant simplicity, this is the story of two brothers growing up in a fractured family on the wild Tasmanian coast.

  • Schroder jacket


    by Amity Gaige

    Published 2013

    About this book

    More by this author

    Attending a New England summer camp, young Eric Schroder - a first-generation East German immigrant - adopts the last name Kennedy to more easily fit in, a fateful white lie that will set him on an improbable and ultimately tragic course.

We have 9 read-alikes for The World Beneath, but non-members are limited to two results. To see the complete list of this book's read-alikes, you need to be a member.
More books by Cate Kennedy
Search read-alikes
How we choose read-alikes

Become a Member

Join BookBrowse today to start discovering exceptional books!

Find out more

Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Daughter in Exile
    Daughter in Exile
    by Bisi Adjapon
    In Bisi Adjapon's Daughter in Exile, main character Lola is a Ghanaian who lands in New York City in...
  • Book Jacket
    The Correspondents
    by Judith Mackrell
    In the introduction to The Correspondents, author Judith Mackrell points out that although there had...
  • Book Jacket: Exiles
    by Jane Harper
    Our First Impressions readers were thrilled to return to the world of Jane Harper's protagonist ...
  • Book Jacket: Spice Road
    Spice Road
    by Maiya Ibrahim
    Imani is a Shield, a warrior who is renowned for her fighting abilities and for her iron dagger, ...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
The Nurse's Secret
by Amanda Skenandore
A fascinating historical novel based on the little-known story of America's first nursing school.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Mostly True Story of Tanner & Louise
    by Colleen Oakley

    A “wildly surprising, entertaining ride of a novel.”
    —Jodi Picoult

  • Book Jacket

    The Last Russian Doll
    by Kristen Loesch

    A haunting epic of betrayal, revenge, and redemption following three generations of Russian women.

Win This Book
Win Last House Before the Mountain

Last House Before the Mountain by Monika Helfer

A spellbinding, internationally bestselling family saga set in a fractured rural village in WWI Austria.



Solve this clue:

R Peter T P P

and be entered to win..

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.