Anne Goodwin: Underneath

Underneath Cover

I received a free digital copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

He never intended to be a jailer …

After years of travelling, responsible to no-one but himself, Steve has resolved to settle down. He gets a job, buys a house and persuades Liesel to move in with him.

Life’s perfect, until Liesel delivers her ultimatum: if he won’t agree to start a family, she’ll have to leave. He can’t bear to lose her, but how can he face the prospect of fatherhood when he has no idea what being a father means? If he could somehow make her stay, he wouldn’t have to choose … and it would be a shame not to make use of the cellar.

Will this be the solution to his problems, or the catalyst for his own unravelling?


Underneath is a literary, psychological suspense that closely inspects the life of Steve and the issues he has surrounding family. Coming into a relationship with Liesel, a woman who did not want a child and eventually changes her mind, Steve cannot comprehend the thought of fatherhood and losing everything good that they have together. With Liesel’s final ultimatum, Steve must find a way to keep her by his side in a desperate attempt not to lose the one thing he holds dear to himself.

I had extremely high hopes for this novel. You always hear stories of people who keep families or people locked up in their basements with neighbours, close friends, and the authorities none the wiser. I was interested in finding out why he locked someone up in his cellar and how the novel itself was resolved. However, I was immediately thrown into a narrative that felt like it had no direction and was forced.

Liesel and Steve meet at lunchtime during a break in Steve’s shift at the hospital. From that moment Liesel integrates herself into his life by helping Steve to view properties following his lottery win. I felt like their was no build up to their relationship and the way that it developed. Within pages they were in a loving relationship having sex in every room available and living together in the house that Steve brought. For the majority of the novel I couldn’t see any evident direction that could suggest the cellar becoming a prison for another character but found myself reading about trivial, mundane events where Liesel and Steve had arguments and then after hours of them both stewing over their emotions they would make up with sex. Their relationship felt strained and there was a lot of push and pull, especially on Liesel’s part which made sense considering their both had familial issues with both missing a parent from their younger years – which seemed to be the major theme of this novel.

There was a lot of confusion on my part with this novel regarding dialogue and movements. I couldn’t get to grips with the characters train of thought and how they managed to get from one scene to another and I frequently found myself getting bored at these moments. Furthermore, there were scenes interspersed throughout the novel that portrayed events, presumably, from Steve’s childhood which I also couldn’t comprehend. I couldn’t see any clear connection to the events taking place and the names and events just confused me all the more. When the novel did finally get to the imprisonment within the cellar, there was also that confusion due to scenes such as this and it felt like Steve was living in a dream or was high or something as different scenarios, presumably in his head, merged together.

I can see where Goodwin was getting with this novel and why Steve did what he did. I just felt like the build up and actually getting to that moment was too mundane, boring, and slow in pace. I would have been far more interested if the writing itself was more coherent and straight forward in its lineage of events from the present and if the relationship between Liesel and Steve had had some time to build up and become more believable and genuine.

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