“Everything Under” is a modern delight. Not always an easy read – both in terms of theme and style – it is one of those modern contemporary novels (like “Elmet” perhaps) that simply stands out as being really good.
There are two things I particularly love about the book.
The first is the way the story flows inexorably, like the river, towards its denouement. There is nothing particularly unique about that gradual building of tension of course – most good novels do so – but the way in which Johnson adds gradually to the pace and tension is symbiotic with the river at the book’s heart.
The second is the way the language Johnson uses mimics the river too. There is a thick and murky quality about it – not in the way that it is written, but in the feeling the writing evokes; you feel trapped by the river, bogged down in the mud, scared of ‘the Bonak’… And the few invented words used by the characters are both typical of what many people do in their everyday lives, but also give them – and their context – a grounding that just works.
No spoilers about the theme behind the story. Let’s just say that it’s an ancient one made modern.
Now I need to go and buy Johnson’s book of short stories, “Fen”.