Unsettled Ground

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Pub Date:
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Finalist for the Women’s Prize for Fiction

“Full of dramatic twists and turns right up until its moving, beautiful end.” —NPR Books

“Entrancing. . . . A brilliant and sly study of family.” —The Los Angeles Times

From the award-winning author of Our Endless Numbered Days, Swimming Lessons, and Bitter Orange comes a brilliant novel about an unusual family held together by a string of lies, a small town with too many questions, and a sudden death that threatens to undo them all.

At fifty-one years old, twins Jeanie and Julius still live with their mother, Dot, in rural isolation in the English countryside. The cottage they have shared their entire lives is their only protection against the modernizing world around them. Inside its walls, they make music, and in its garden, they grow everything they need to survive. To an outsider, it looks like poverty; to them, it is home.

But when Dot dies unexpectedly, the world they’ve so carefully created begins to fall apart. The cottage they love, and the security it offered, is taken back by their landlord, exposing the twins to harsh truths and even harsher realities. Seeing a new future, Julius becomes torn between the loyalty he feels towards his sister and his desire for independence, while Jeanie struggles to find work and a home for them both. And just when it seems there might be a way forward, a series of startling secrets from their mother’s past come to the surface, forcing the twins to question who they are, and everything they know of their family’s history.

In Unsettled Ground, award-winning author Claire Fuller masterfully builds a tale of sacrifice and hope, of homelessness and hardship, of love and survival, in which two marginalized and remarkable people uncover long-held family secrets and, in their own way, repair, recover, and begin again.


  • “Timeless. . . . [a] shadowy family saga, which is marked by illicit love, violence and blood debts.”

    The Wall Street Journal

  • “Engrossing.”

    Entertainment Weekly

  • “A simple but powerful story of rural poverty, sibling relationships and, perhaps above all, resilience.”


  • “Powerful. . . . fascinating.”


  • “One mystery after another arises and two siblings who have been left behind by the modern world face changes both gentle and profound.”

    —The Daily Beast

  • “A quiet tale of loss and survival.”

    Good Housekeeping

  • “Transfixing.”

    Chicago Review of Books

  • “A winner.”

    —The Center for Fiction

  • “An unnerving and emotional novel of family secrets, vulnerability and resilience.”

    Shelf Awareness

  • “Rapturous.”

    The San Diego Union Tribune

  • “A page-turner. . . . reflecting the humble beauty of country life in every page, Unsettled Ground will appeal to a wide array of readers.”

    —Harvard Review

  • “Fuller has created a propulsive story that readers can’t help but get caught up in.”

    —Necessary Fiction

  • “Prepare for an experience of the English countryside that’s somewhat at odds with its typically idyllic depiction. . . . As the title suggests, at each turn there’s something new and unexpected.”


  • “Fuller paints a devastatingly haunting picture of abject poverty, especially in her descriptions of the houses they dwell in, each of which becomes a character in its own right. This tale offers a remarkable peek into how the embrace of family can completely smother other aspects of life. Nevertheless, human ingenuity persists. . . . It’s reassuring to think that reinvention is possible after all.”

    Booklist, Starred Review

  • “Revelatory. . . . a powerful, beautiful novel.”

    The Times

  • “An intriguing premise made more so by the paucity of novels featuring vulnerable older adults.”

    Financial Times

  • “Superb.”

    Daily Mail

  • “Evocative. . . . Fuller builds suspense over the twins’ fate and ends with a brilliant twist.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Fuller is a master of building suspense. . . . At once unsettling and hopeful, her book checks all the boxes of an engrossing mystery.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “An intriguing, moving novel that will make you question assumptions you have about modern life.”

    —Tracy Chevalier

  • “A book like Unsettled Ground is why we read. . . . Written with tenderness and beauty, Unsettled Ground is not to be missed.”

    —Sherri Gallentine, Vroman’s Bookstore, BuzzFeed Best Books of Spring as Recommended by Booksellers

  • “If you’re a reader who lives for contemplative storytelling and perfectly wrought characters, this author is for you.”

    Book Page

  • “A gorgeously written and moving portrait of a family struggling against time.”

    —Lucy Tan, author of What We Were Promised

  • “Another sly psychological treat from Claire Fuller, who just keeps on getting better with each book.”

    —Laline Paull, The Ice

  • “Fuller’s prose is darkly elegant, her eye for character astute and humane, and her sense of place vividly atmospheric—here is a writer of great skill, sensitivity, and subtlety.”

    —Lucy Atkins, author of Magpie Lane

  • “Claire Fuller strikes the perfect balance between beauty and melancholy in this relevant and powerful exploration of isolation and life on the fringes of society.”

    —Clare Mackintosh, author of After the End