Review: In at the Deep End by Kate Davies

Opening sentence: “One Saturday morning last January, Alice pointed out that I hadn’t had sex in three years.”

This book is filth and I loved it. In at the Deep End gets the title of both one of the most sexually explicit and one of the funniest books I’ve read. It came with a mini-cover that stated, ‘do not read this over my shoulder’ and as a person that spends a lot of time reading on my commute (hence my blog title), there was more than one occasion when I had to side-eye to see if anyone was taking a peek at 8am at the graphic descriptions of lesbian sex!

Yes, so this book is about 26-year old Julia. After years of unsatisfying relationships with men, she comes to realisation that she’s attracted to women and starts a complex relationship with Sam, an artist and bit of a legend on the lesbian scene. Julia’s relationship with Sam is really well written, it’s complex in the sense that Julia knows it’s dubious and not exactly fair, but her hormones override her rational mind and as a reader you’re both frustrated with her – while understanding it; she’s a past version of yourself, or a friend that always moans to you but never leaves the relationship.

Julia is a civil servant and is more than aware of the non-glam status of her job, it was never the plan: an ankle injury prematurely ended her dancing career. However, her workplace is the setting for some hilarious scenes and truly poignant ones too – her correspondence with elderly war-veteran Eric add lovely, touching moments amongst all the fisting. (Yes, fisting, the sexual descriptions are pretty graphic!)
The book’s narrative is about Julia discovering who she is and exploring what all the different relationships in her life mean to her – from Sam to her friends and parents, to her therapist. I really enjoyed this one: her somewhat dubious therapist is quick to offer her opinion and doesn’t always abide by the rules of professionalism. (She’s actually the second dodgy therapist that’s cropped up in a recent read of mine, although she’s nowhere near as bad as Dr.Tuttle in My Year of Rest and Relaxation).

This is Kate Davies’ debut novel (she writes and edits children’s books by day, a contrast I love) and I’ll definitely be reading her next one. In at the Deep End is a filthy, funny, poignant book with a strong story that pulls you in – the comparisons to Fleabag are spot on. Elements that could have been cheesy in other books seemed heartwarming here thanks to its pithy tone and refreshingly contemporary setting (it’s the first novel I’ve read with a reference to Brexit). I have also learnt a lot about lesbian sex. To surmise: You need to give In at the Deep End a read immediately.

/ I was kindly sent this book in exchange for an honest review.

/ Published by The Borough Press 2019

/ 400 pages

/ Rating: 5/5

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