Deep Down by Imogen West-Knights - review by Esme Bright

Esme Bright

Frosty Relations

Deep Down

By

Fleet 304pp £14.99
 

Imogen West-Knights’s first novel has been hailed as this year’s ‘unmissable debut’, which is not an easy billing to live up to. Deep Down, as it turns out, is a promising but uneven offering.

Her story centres on Tom and Billie, estranged siblings who meet in Paris following the death of their violent father. The passages describing the pair’s time together are interpolated with sketches of their individual lives, and this is where West-Knights’s writing is at its best. In one especially strong chapter, Billie accompanies her boyfriend on his family’s annual ice-skating trip. His mother lends Billie her muff, which is ‘warm in her hands and very soft, like a rabbit that hasn’t quite finished dying’. Acutely observed vignettes such as these gently bring out the inner lives of her lonely characters.

Yet the threads binding these episodes into a novel feel thin. The dialogue often reads like a transcript and the siblings’ awkward exchanges, such as their debate about the efficiency of the Eurostar, become tedious when left uninterrupted. Though the pair do finally move beyond small talk and confront

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