Below Deck - Sophie Hardcastle

Below Deck - Sophie Hardcastle


And then, just like that, a thought bubbles inside me. It's a beginning; a new beginning; my beginning. The beginning of the story I tell myself in order to survive.
We choose to breathe, don't we?

Twenty-one-year-old Olivia hears the world in colour, but her life is mottled grey. Estranged from her parents, and living with her grandfather who is drowning in sadness, Oli faces the reality of life beyond university alone.

When she wakes on a boat with no recollection of how she got there, she accepts the help of two strangers who change the course of her future forever. With Mac and Maggie, Oli learns to navigate a life upon open ocean and the world flowers into colours she's never seen before.

Four years later, Oli, fluent in the language of the sea, is the only woman among men on a yacht delivery from Noumea to Auckland. In the darkness below deck, she learns that at sea, no one can hear you scream.

Moving to London, Oli's life at sea is buried. When she meets Hugo, the wind changes, and her memories are dust blown into shapes. Reminding her of everything.

Below Deck is about the moments that haunt us, the moments that fan out like ripples through the deep. So that everything else, becomes everything after.

About the Author

Sophie Hardcastle was born in 1993. She is an author, artist, screenwriter and scholar. In 2018, she was a Provost's Scholar in English Literature at Worcester College, at the University of Oxford, where she wrote Below Deck. In 2017, Sophie was an artist-in-residence with Chimu Adventures in Antarctica. Sophie is the author of the critically acclaimed Running Like China (2015) and Breathing Under Water (2016). She is the co-creator, co-writer and co-director of the online series Cloudy River.

Staff Review by Ben Hunter

A new voice has emerged in Australian fiction with one of the most highly anticipated books of the year. Sophie Hardcastle’s Below Deck is a tender, poetic, almost hypnotic coming of age story. Reading Hardcastle’s prose feels like going on a spacewalk – a curious weightlessness combined with acute sensation, filled with distortions of light and sound. It’s unique and exhilarating. Read it and you’ll see I mean.

The novel centres on 21-year-old Olivia, born to privilege and frighteningly smart, but socially isolated and estranged from her parents. She falls into the company of two remarkable strangers, Mac and Maggie, who show her the majesty of the sea and help her to grasp her unsung potential. But the open ocean reflects humanity at its best and its worst. Hardcastle does not hold back in exposing the horrors endured by women and the opaque constructions of consent that serve to appease the very worst of male behaviour.

It’s impossible not to be affected by this book. Set between Sydney and London via the Tropics and the Antarctic ocean, Below Deck is so much more than a fictional account of harrowing experience. It’s about personhood, self-discovery, art, nature, community, the colour of voices and the sound of sailing. Love it. Love it. Love it.



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