Breathing Under Water reviewed by Tara


As twins, Grace and Ben have always shared a unique connection. Growing up together by the ocean, they share a love of surfing and the same close knit group of friends. Ben is the centre of the universe in their family and the apple of his father’s eye, making a name for himself as a competitive surfer, riding boards made in the family business. Amongst their social group, Ben is the leader and the others follow closely in his wake.

Being the second twin, more reserved, and female, Grace faces hurdles that Ben doesn’t need to consider. Content to follow in Ben’s shadow, Grace doesn’t resent Ben’s popularity, confidence and the ease with which things fall into place for him. She lives like a moon orbiting the sun.

Ben’s death shatters the lives of those around him. In the absence of the sun, the gravitational pull that held the universe together is lost. Grace and her friends and family drift aimlessly, until the forces gradually realign.

This is a raw and insightful novel about the devastation wrecked on a community by the sudden loss of one of their own. There is diversity in the way the characters deal with their grief. Their individual responses cause ripple effect to those around as they try to acknowledge what has happened and come to the point of moving forward. Hardcastle draws a comparison between the events and the devastation on the landscapes by bushfire, when she writes “Looks bleak now but bush always grows back … I’ll stand by it until it does.”

Hardcastle’s love of surfing and the ocean shines through her writing. She writes beautifully about the connection between the twins. The story also explores sub-themes of male privilege, rape, escapism and risk-taking behaviour by teens.


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