Summary and book reviews of The World Beneath by Cate Kennedy

The World Beneath

by Cate Kennedy

The World Beneath
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Paperback:
    Feb 2011, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Judy Krueger

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About this Book

Book Summary

A compassionate and unswerving portrait of a broken family whose members go to extraordinary lengths to reclaim their lives and relationships from the mistakes of the past.

The first novel from acclaimed author Cate Kennedy is a compassionate and unswerving portrait of a broken family whose members go to extraordinary lengths to reclaim their lives and relationships from the mistakes of the past.

Fifteen years after their break-up, Rich and Sandy have both settled into the unfulfilling compromises of middle age: he’s a late-night infomercial editor with photojournalism aspirations; she makes hippie jewelry for a local market and struggles to maintain a New Age lifestyle that fails to provide the answers she seeks. To distract themselves from their inadequacies, Rich and Sandy cling to the shining moment of their youth, when they met as environmental activists as part of a world-famous blockade to save Tasmania's Franklin River.

Their daughter, Sophie, has always remained skeptical of this ecological fairytale, but when Rich invites her on a backpacking trip through Tasmania for her fifteenth birthday, Sophie sees it as a way to bond with a father she’s never known. As they progress further into the wilderness, the spell of Rich’s worldly charm soon gives way to suspicion and fear as his overconfidence sets off a chain of events that no one could have predicted.

One

It was the broken-resolution end of January already, and Sandy was sitting in the kitchen drinking decaffeinated coffee with her oven’s green, digital-clock display panel flashing, if you could believe it, HELP HELP HELP instead of the time. Last night, full of the beadyeyed purpose a late-night joint always gave her, she’d stood there trying to reprogram it to bring the clock back without making the bloody oven alarm go off, pressing and fiddling and relighting the stub of her roach, until finally she’d sworn at it and given up.

So now it was signalling her for help. Her oven, for crying out loud. An appliance.

And even though she couldn’t fix the timer, the clock still ran with a snickering whirr, a nasty little calibrated sound of time mouse-wheeling itself determinedly away, even if she was sitting here marooned in the long slack middle of the afternoon, picking hard candle wax off the tablecloth and waiting for the caffeine rush that ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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

Full Review Members Only (593 words).

Media Reviews

Library Journal

Occasionally the narrative becomes bogged down by lengthy stream-of-consciousness paragraphs, but this is a minor flaw in what is otherwise a wise and graceful debut novel.

Publishers Weekly

The pitfalls of nostalgia and the disappointment of everyday life contrast sharply with the ravishing Tasmanian landscapes Kennedy is excellent at painting, along with interpersonal terrain, but the novel wants to be more profound than it actually is.

Booklist

Starred Review. A gripping debut.

Financial Times (UK)

A very effective blend of social comedy and lyrically precise naturalism. ... Kennedy writes like an Antipodean Anne Tyler, wryly aware of the heart’s internal contradictions yet slow to judge. Subtle allusions to the myth of Persephone add another level to this impressive tale of self-reliance and self-delusion.

The Guardian (UK)

It's a bracing, unsentimental and often very funny full-length debut, and if the post-hippy aimlessness of Rich and Sandy is sometimes too soft a target, there is still spiky, uncompromising Sophie, forced to find reserves of strength and forgiveness for her two infuriatingly childlike parents.

Courier Mail (Australia)

The World Beneath displays all the hallmarks of the short-story writer's art; acute observation and concise execution.

Australian Book Review

This is a thought-provoking journey into contemporary Australia; an impressive debut novel.

Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)

The World Beneath is an intelligent, equivocal, unusual and often amusing novel, one that comprehends the comfort of stereotypes and pushes beyond them, one that, in the words of its epigraph from Turgenev, sees that 'the heart of another is a dark forest.

Who Magazine (Australia)

The World Beneath is a rare combination of a pacy, gripping plot with very real characters and spare, elegant writing. Beautifully observed, Kennedy's novel is painfully honest about the ways in which family members hurt - and heal - each other - Four stars.

The Age (Australia)

Cate Kennedy, celebrated for her short fiction, this year began her long-distance career with The World Beneath. To my mind, she enters the stadium a hundred metres in front of the next novice and with the best time for many years.

Adelaide Advertiser (Australia)

Written in precise and singing prose, [Cate Kennedy's] powerful first novel begins with three unlikable characters and blossoms into a work of mythic depth, lyrical description and gripping suspense.

Good Reading Magazine (Australia)

Cate Kennedy's ironic humor nails out-of-touch grandparents, flailing Baby Boomers and tech-head adolescents. The World Beneath is a treasure of a first novel by a prize-winning short story writer and poet. This is Australia calling. I loved it.

Woman's Day (Australia)

A stunning book with a heart-stopping climax.

Sunday Mail/Sunday Telegraph (Australia)

When the inner lives of ordinary people are made gripping and moving and enlightening, then you know you are in the hands of a great storyteller.

Australian Literary Review (Australia)

Vivid and robust realism shading occasionally into satire, full of humour and drama, told through different and conflicting points of view ... In some ways it's reminiscent of Christos Tsiolkas's The Slap: an unsentimental, beady eyed look at contemporary Australian middle age and its treatment of its children.

Notebook Magazine, Pick of the Month (Australia)

Kennedy has delivered an outstanding story.

Time Out Sydney (Australia)

The World Beneath is the first novel by Cate Kennedy, often cited as Australia's queen of the short story. In the longer format Kennedy doesn't disappoint, delivering her characters with unnerving accuracy - the disdain of a teenager, the searing frustration of a man whose life has passed him by - while the Tasmanian wilderness looms as vividly as anyone else on the page.

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Beyond the Book

The Wilderness and Ecology of Tasmania

The Australian state of Tasmania is made up of Tasmania Island (the 26th largest island in the world and home to Tasmania's capital city, Hobart) and surrounding islands including Cape Barren Island and King Island. Tasmania Map Located just south of Australia, Tasmania Island is separated from the mainland by the Bass Straight which is 149 miles (240 km) wide at its narrowest point.

For thousands of years Tasmania was a vast wilderness inhabited only by aborigines. Due to its separation from the mainland and the late settlement of European colonists approximately 200 years ago, Tasmania is home to a unique ecosystem featuring ancient forests and species of wildlife that live nowhere else on the planet.

The Tasmanian Wolf, also known ...

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