Title: One Would Think The Deep
Author: Claire Zorn
Publisher: UQP (University of Queensland Press)
Format: Paperback, 305 pages
Looking for a book that’s highly character driven, slightly nostalgic-inducing, and with haunting and enchanting writing? One Would Think The Deep is what you’re looking for. This book blew me away with its poignant writing, and it’s one I am definitely recommending. Claire Zorn is a force with words, and I know I definitely will be going out and picking up the rest of her books.
One Would Think the Deep is a melancholy piece of work that deals with grief, family, and connections to music and surf. The official blurb of the book summarises this story way better than I can;
It’s 1997 and seventeen-year-old Sam is reeling from the sudden death of his mum. With nothing but his skateboard and his music, Sam leaves the city to live with his aunty Lorraine and cousins Shane and Minty in their dilapidated beach shack. Sam and Minty were close as kids until Sam’s mum suddenly cut all ties with the family.
As Sam tries to fit into the small town, he rekindles his relationship with Minty by following his cousin into the surf. But Sam has a past that he can’t keep hidden, and not even the ocean can quieten the questions swirling through his head. Was his mother keeping secrets from him? Why won’t Aunty Lorraine or Nana tell him who his father is? How can Sam find himself if he doesn’t know who he is?
And as if things weren’t complicated enough, there’s also this girl…
As I mentioned earlier, this book has some purely fantastic writing. Within four pages I knew that the writing was perfect, and beautiful, and it’s definitely what ended up being my favourite thing about this book. It was detailed, and poetic, and flowing all in one. It really helped create the overall tone of the book, and it definitely added a lot to this story. I think in books that are highly character driven, the writing really needs to be on par because it just adds to all the emotions the characters are going through, and I think Zorn really excelled at this. If this is the type of writing she applies to all her works, I really can’t wait until I can go and pick up the rest of her works.
Because I need to share some of the beautiful writing featured in this book, I’m just going to spam you all with some nice quotes and descriptions;
“He was tightly wound energy, Labrador enthusiasm – a glint in his eye like he’d let you in on some genius plot to hitchhike to the Amazon or build a nuclear bomb in the garage.” – Such a well detailed description that truly provides a nice perspective into the character.
“The sky was luminous. It was like being on another planet, a peaceful shimmering world of water and colour.”
“It was absurd, his elegance, the calligraphy lines of the board across the grassy faces of the waves. He decorated them in flicks and swirls.”
“Despite the heat she was coated in layers of clothing, all different colours like the flaking layers of paint on an old house.”
One of the things I very much appreciated about this book was just how bloody Australian it was. I don’t think this is something that would be picked up on if you’re not Australian. But just the language and the places, and the characters just all screamed Australia. And it just gave a nostalgic Australian feel to it too. I really resonated with this, and I think because this book is set in my home state, it made it easier for me to feel this because I know the places being mentioned.
It’s been a good few weeks since I’ve read this book and writing this review, and even now that I’ve had more time to reflect on this, I still can’t quite decide on how I feel about the characters. Part of me liked Sam, and part of me disliked Sam. I couldn’t quite understand him, or connect with him. He was too bland, and too angsty all in one that made me just not quite like him. I can understand his grief, and his grieving process is probably what made me feel anything for him, but he alone was just meh. I disliked Shane, but I liked Minty. And I think for the most part I liked Gretchen. I think as a whole they were a good bunch of characters, and how their stories weaved together as a whole was nice, it was just when I started to think about them individually that I really questioned if I was connecting with them or not.
Although I really enjoyed this book for the most part, I did have some issues also, and these mainly were to do with the plot. Firstly, there is a lot of surfing in this book. And for someone like me who has never been surfing let alone even has the slightest interest in surfing, this can get quite boring after awhile. It wasn’t bad, because these parts were saved with some truly beautiful descriptions about the water and the board gliding like calligraphy, but it just sometimes felt like not really a whole lot was going on because it was just someone having some deep thoughts whilst in the water.
The other plot point I was slightly unimpressed in is what I guess can be referred to as the mystery of the plot. The entire time the reader is slightly in the dark about some of Sam’s background. Things are hinted at, and I ended up entirely predicting the plot of the book much earlier than the official reveal. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it removed some of the mystery that the book was going for, and it made the entire last few chapters very anticlimactic as the big reveal lost all of its impact on me.
The final plot point I just couldn’t quite get on board with came down to the romance. Sam and Gretchen just completely made no sense to me. They were a little too instalovey but with no chemistry in my opinion, and there entire relationship was just weird considering for a good chunk of the book Sam couldn’t even work up the courage to talk to Gretchen. It just kind of lowered my overall feelings towards the book, but I think if it had been worked on a little more it would have come across more natural and added to the coming of age story in a more impressive way.
One Would Think The Deep was a stunning and poignant book telling an important story about grief and family. The beautiful writing was the true star for this book, and is something that has stood out to me the most. I really enjoyed this story, and think it’s a book that will appeal to a wide range of people. For the few issues I did have with the book, my overall rating is 3.5 stars, but I definitely recommend it if you’re in the mood for a different kind of contemporary.