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Undercurrent

Paperback / ISBN-13: 9781399706513

Price: £9.99

ON SALE: 11th April 2024

Genre: Literature & Literary Studies / Prose: Non-fiction

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SHORTLISTED FOR THE NERO BOOK AWARDS 2023

‘A powerful story of social inequality’ RAYNOR WINN
‘Important and beautifully lyrical’ THE TIMES
‘A fierce, urgent memoir’ AMY-JANE BEER

To grow up in rural poverty is to fight for life before you can walk. Natasha Carthew was born into a world that sat alongside picture-postcard Cornwall – one where second homes took the sea view of council properties, summer months shifted the course of people’s lives, and wealth converged with poverty on sandy beaches.

In the rockpools and hedgerows of the natural world, Natasha found solace in the wild landscape, and a means of escape in her mobile library. In Undercurrent she retraces the cliff paths of her childhood, determined to make sense of an upbringing shaped by political neglect and a life defined by the beauty of nature.
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‘A story of queer resistance, of community and of finding your own voice’ DAMIAN BARR
‘By turns marvellous, moving and mesmerising’ ANITA SETHI
‘A proud, defiant account’ CAUGHT BY THE RIVER
‘Haunting and powerful’ KATE MOSSE
‘Fierce and honest . . . reveals the precarious nature of working-class life’ BBC COUNTRYFILE MAGAZINE

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Reviews

Raw, rebellious, urgent and hopeful, this is a stunning tale of a life made and saved by nature
Dr Helen Scales
Natasha Carthew shines the light on another side of Cornwall, one far from the world of bright Instagram pictures and celebrity travel shows. She reveals a place of poverty, dead-end jobs and little hope. But she writes so passionately about a world she knows well and her humanity and sense of humour shine though on every page, ensuring that the often dark subject matter fuels a rich, rewarding read
Petroc Trelawny
Luscious layers of poetic prose that fluidly lead us through the landscapes and seascapes of Cornwall, recounting stories of poverty and often tough childhood struggles. Stories told by one who knew that they needed and wanted so much more for their life, but one for whom the seascape of Cornwall is still the hypnotic textural lens. This book is a beautiful, sometimes difficult, elegy to our innermost hopes, fears and dreams. Gorgeously and generously written
Juno Roche
A book like a beacon, blazing with love and anger for how it is to grow up poor and full of serious ambition in a place others use as a playground. Carthew's unbreakable commitment to making art from the outside edge of social provision is a rallying call to all of us who grew up pushed to the margins. This is a fierce, inspiring story
Tanya Shadrick
Poetic, political and powerful, Natasha Carthew weaves lyrical and sensual nature writing with the tough realities of growing up in poverty
Chloe Timms
A compelling counterbalance to the conventional Cornish story, Undercurrent takes the reader into a side of Cornwall that is rarely presented to the outside world. Natasha Carthew, in scintillating prose, recounts her childhood by the sea, in a place full of dazzling natural beauty, but with a dark side of poverty, inequality and lack of opportunity. Her moving story of finding a way to become a writer is both a testament to her strength, and a passionate call for social justice for disadvantaged rural communities
Sophie Pierce
Railing against the brutal unfairness of accepting the life she seems condemned to lead, Natasha weaves an exhilarating story of escaping the dangerous undercurrents of her life and becoming the writer she was always meant to be. I was with her until the end
Linda Gask
Carthew shows us Cornwall as it often lived but rarely seen, where the rich holiday and others struggle to survive. It's a tale of two counties with the ever-changing sea as a constant. It is a story of queer resistance, of community and of finding your own voice
Damian Barr
By turns marvellous, moving, & mesmerising
Anita Sethi
Haunting and powerful, a book about the sea and the power of belonging, about secrets and words, this is a beautiful and powerful memoir. I read it in one sitting.
Kate Mosse
A powerful story of social inequality told with the depth of voice that only comes from a writer passionately rooted in place. Like the Cornish tides that fill her life, Carthew is at times roaring, visceral and exclusive, in turn gentle, embracing and inclusive, but always driven by hope and determination.
Raynor Winn
A fierce, urgent memoir by one of our most important writers. Natasha Carthew is a warrior you'd want on your side in almost any battle, but more important, she is a torchbearer. If you want to understand life in rural Britain, look where she casts her light.
Amy-Jane Beer
This important and beautifully lyrical book asks questions about identity, belonging and the ability of words to transform a life
The Times
A simmering dissection of rural poverty
Luke Turner
Beautiful and lyrical, Undercurrent explores the world of rural poverty with both striking honesty and heart. There is no other writer like Carthew
Mahsuda Snaith
Undercurrent is a fierce and different kind of nature writing, where the wildness is within as well as without: the life you're dealt, and how you manage it - survival, resourcefulness, protection, the ferocity and necessity of having an escape-dream, and the discovery of self-expression through creativity. Delivered in wave upon wave of the flotsam and jetsam, light through water, love, chaos, lack and rage, of trauma, abandonment and poverty in a rural, working class life. An eloquent shouting into the storm, there are quiet coves, where the wild beauty of a 'destination' landscape contrasts with deep and damaging eddies of deprivation. It is also a lifting of the eyes, heart and hope above the horizon, through the life-changing power and importance of literacy, cultural capital and the mobile library, as a means of freedom and opportunity. It's the paradox of how to love a place you belong to but cannot dwell in (that hurts you) and the need to escape it. Brace yourself. It left me breathless, and more determined than ever, to be a good and relevant school librarian.
Nicola Chester
This is an absolutely brilliant, essential book. I am only halfway through and can already tell it will change my heart and mind
Lucia Osborne-Crowley
The most lyrical description of Cornwall I have ever read... highly recommended
The Tablet
A proud, defiant account and despite all the bluster and squalls, Carthew is walking fire, fury and sinew, and yet not afraid to show her more vulnerable underbelly. One thing is clear - that this book is also about love. Familial love, love of community, platonic love, unrequited love, love of words, poetry, people and place - but where her words really sing is in her love of Cornwall, its coastlines, laneways, open skies and hidden places - places she wants to survive and thrive
Caught by the River
A vivid story of hope, beauty and resilience
Manx Independent
Charged with the power of nature, writing and little-heard rural working-class voices, this beautiful memoir is an ode to Cornwall, creativity, and resilience
Love Reading
Ferocious . . . A story of humour, resilience and doing things 'with Kernewek pride'
TLS
Carthew's fierce and honest memoir of her childhood and teenage years reveals the precarious nature of working-class life in a county where dazzling wealth and natural beauty rub shoulders with dark, grinding poverty. This is an inspiring tale of resilience founded on humour, poetry and love of nature
BBC Countryfile Magazine