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The Undertow
by Jo Baker

Published: 2012-05-15
Hardcover : 352 pages
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The American debut of an enthralling new voice: a vivid, indelibly told work of fiction that follows four generations of a family against the backdrop of a tumultuous century?a novel about inheritance, about fate and passion, and about what it means to truly break free of the past.

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Introduction

The American debut of an enthralling new voice: a vivid, indelibly told work of fiction that follows four generations of a family against the backdrop of a tumultuous century?a novel about inheritance, about fate and passion, and about what it means to truly break free of the past.

This is the story of the Hastings family?their secrets, their loves and losses, dreams and heartbreaks?captured in a seamless series of individual moments that span the years between the First World War and the present. The novel opens in 1914 as William, a young factory worker, spends one last evening at home before his departure for the navy . . . His son, Billy, grows into a champion cyclist and will ride into the D-Day landings on a military bicycle . . . His son in turn, Will, struggles with a debilitating handicap to become an Oxford professor in the 1960s . . . And finally, young Billie Hastings makes a life for herself as an artist in contemporary London. Just as the names echo down through the family, so too does the legacy of choices made, chances lost, and truths long buried.




Guest Reviewer: Kate Alcott on The Undertow by Jo Baker

Kate Alcott, the author of The Dressmaker, was a reporter covering politics in Washington D.C., where she and her husband still live.

One warning for the reader about to open The Undertow: don?t plan to read this remarkable, tender novel in short snatches of time, because it won?t work. Jo Baker's story following the Hastings family through four generations will pull you up and hold you to the last page.

A young and frightened seaman facing the battle of Gallipoli during World War 1 scribbles out a cheery postcard to his wife. Years later, his great-granddaughter picks the postcard out of an old album and thinks about what this distant, unknown man must have felt and feared; for her and for us, he breathes with life.

It is, yes, a grand sweep of a family's love and sadness and joy through time ? but what makes the story stand out is the author's gift for drawing every character vivid and full. She paints them with finely tuned detail. She understands their strengths and weaknesses, and, with great sensitivity, their contradictions.

As in real lives, choices are made, paths taken and sometimes regretted. Always, time moves on. So settle down in a chair and dive in. Follow these people through chapters that crackle with the bloody horrors of war and others that end as lightly as a kiss. You will be absorbed by them all ? and their stories are ones you will not soon forget.



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