“I loved reading books where the everyday is inhabited by the weird, where the normal becomes strange. Horror teaches us about suspense and tension, about the edges where belief can stretch and morph. The world is strange and fiction can push this strangeness and teach us something new.”
So said Daisy Johnson in an interview with her former Oxford college. The normal certainly becomes strange in Everything Under, Johnson’s first novel, for which she was shortlisted for last year’s Booker Prize, the youngest nominee in its history – she was 27.
While the story centres on the relationship between a daughter reunited with her mother, it soon becomes apparent that theirs is no ordinary history: characters are not always who they seem; gender and time are fluid; and the novel is haunted both by the brooding presence of the Oxfordshire countryside and by ‘the Bonak’, a ghostly riverine monster.
Beneath it all lies the legend of Oedipus, the Greek king who murdered his father and married his mother. “I loved the weird darkness of the myth,” said Johnson. Weirdness is her watchword.