Thursday, 27 September 2018

The Groundsmen by Lynn Buckle

The Groundsmen by Lynn Buckle
Published by Epoque Press tomorrow, the 28th September 2018.

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository
Amazon US / Amazon UK

The Groundsmen delves into the fractured lives of a family blemished by a darkly disturbing past. The secrets kept hidden over multiple generations taint them all and as events spiral out of control in a cycle of violence, none of them will escape. The narrative is told from the perspective of five individual family members:
Louis is trapped under the dark shadow of his past with Toby.
Cally retreats to a world of myth and seeks a salvation that eludes her.
Andi is caught in a degenerate relationship of dependency and control.
Cassie is turning into a dog and burying the wreckage of all their lives in the garden.
Over them all looms the dark presence of the Groundsman’s hut.

The Groundsmen is a gorgeously written, yet very dark novel which explores issues of sexual abuse in a disturbingly dysfunctional family. It is told through first person narration with the point of view switching between five family members: Cally and her husband Louis, their daughters Andi and Cassie, and Louis' brother Toby. Each character speaks in a stream-of-consciousness style so, as readers, we are party to their innermost thoughts while also witnessing conversations and actions. A warning to potential readers: these thoughts, especially those of the male characters, are frequently chauvinistically repulsive and I found both Louis and Toby to be extremely offensive! I appreciated each family member having a distinctive voice so it was always easy for me to remember whose point of view I was reading.

Lynn Buckle has a wonderfully poetic style of writing which I felt worked well here. I couldn't always be sure exactly what was going on because actions and events are more often alluded to than explicitly described. This is completely in keeping with The Groundsmen's theme of secrecy and hidden lives so is cleverly effective although frustrating at times. My sympathies initially lay most clearly with young Cassie and her older sister Andi. Andi often comes across as the only adult in the family as she has to shoulder much of the responsibility for her sister. Cally was more difficult for me to understand as her reclusive behaviour made me question some of my own ideas.

The Groundsmen is a saddening novel. It has a depressing authenticity especially in its presentation of repeated cycles of abusive behaviour and how difficult both abused and abusing characters find it to break away from what has gone before. I found the book challenging both emotionally and technically. This deep and thoughtful story won't have mainstream bestseller appeal, but is certainly a rewarding read.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Lynn Buckle / Contemporary fiction / Books from England


  1. of this sounds like The Roanoke Girls and other similar books I enjoyed. I like this topic especially when it is well written. A first person POV definitely makes the topic more gripping and authentic! I'm not a big fan of first person POV precisely because when you dislike or don't connect with the character can be tough being inside their mind all the time. Being in a chauvinistically repulsive mind sounds intense especially for a feminist like me! but I LOVE books that challenge me ;-)

    1. Yes, that chauvinism was difficult to read, but also bizarrely compulsive. I think The Groundsmen could be thought of as a literary Roanoke Girls