Freya has come to visit her grandparents who live on a remote island. Last year she visited them with her brother – but last year her brother died alone in a boating accident. Whilst back on the island, Freya finds a way, with the calming presence of her grandparents and the gentle care and attention of the people around her, to adjust to the fact that her brother has gone, and that life – and love – are still vibrantly in the air. A perfect coming of age for any young girl just tipping into teenhood.
I read Julia Green’s Drawing With Light a couple of years ago and really enjoyed it, so I was really looking forward to reading Breathing Underwater. I have a real liking for books set on islands, I blame Enid Blyton, so I had pretty high hopes for this book.
The book tells the story of Freya, she’s grieving for her brother Joe who died last year and whilst she’s trying her hardest to come to terms with his loss she has a nagging feeling that all is not as it seemed with his death. She tries to pursue these thoughts at the same time that she finds a way to carry on without Joe. She makes friends with a group of teenagers who are all staying at the camp site on the island, which allows for some lovely scenes that made me wish I was there with them.
The story is split between the current day and flashbacks to the previous year when Joe was still alive. I really liked this as it meant we got to know Joe through Freya’s eyes at least, and we could understand why she’s so driven to find out what happened to him. I’m not always a fan of stories told this way, but I think in this book it worked really well and added a lot to the story.
I liked Freya a lot, I found that I was really drawn to her and cared about her. I liked the way that whilst she was focussed on trying to find out what had happened to Joe she kept her concerns for everyone else at the forefront.
Both this book and Drawing With Light are beautifully written books, they’re quiet and contained but deal with pretty significant issues. I love the way that Green manages to show that adults are flawed humans too, quite often it as teenagers that we realise this about our parents.
This was such a lovely read, I see that Julia Green has a new book Bringing The Summer out later this year, I’ve got it on my wishlist already.
Breathing Underwater is published in paperback by Bloomsbury in the UK.